Eurolinux goes ballistic over Euro patent ‘coup’

EPO totally out of control...

The Eurolinux Alliance has called for the sacking of the board of the European Patent Office, following what it describes as a "juridical coup" mounted by the Munich-based outfit. The "coup" takes the form of a new EPO examination directive which effectively extends patents "to software, business methods and mathematics... and for the first time officially sanctions direct patent claims to 'computer program products' and 'computer programs'."

The amendments were made, according to the EPO, "to bring the Guidelines into line with EPO board of appeal case law concerning the patentability of business methods and computer-related inventions and with current EPO practice on examining such subject-matter." But according to Eurolinux they effectively pre-empt an EU decision on the patentability of software. They cover computer programs as "computer-implementable inventions" and allow programs to be patented where they have a "further technical effect". And how many programs do not?

The EPO was never going to be flavour of the week at Eurolinux anyway, but this little piece of manoeuvring has triggered a full-scale explosion. It "constitutes an assault on democracy in Europe and a provocation against European governments, which... had decided to preserve the exclusion of computer programs from patentability." It is "a violation of article 22 of the European Patent Convention."

The EPO "has extended the realm of patentability through decisions of low-level appeal courts. The European Patent Office has tried to circumvent the democratic control of European Governments through adventurous [nice turn of phrase] administrative processes. The European Patent Office ignores its ruling authorities... The European Patent Office scorns the 80% of software companies who are against software patents..."

So... Eurolinux demands that the EPO be made to act in "a controllable and sensible way." But as "control and common sense do not seem to be appropriate terms for the current behaviour of the European Patent Office," governments should make it clear that the EPO's granting of patents on computer programs and "immaterial innovations" is legally questionable, and "does not correspond to governmental public policy goals."

Governments should sack the current board and appoint a war crimes tribunal (we made that bit up) "to investigate its responsibility for repeated violations of the European Patent Convention, contempt for the legislative process and public interest." Tumbrils all round... ®

Related Links:
Federation for a Free Information Infrastructure
Eurolinux Alliance
Enigmatic but significant EPO press release

Sponsored: Designing and building an open ITOA architecture