Feeds

Linux alliance fights against Euro software patents

21 June 1999

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The Power of One Brief: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

It was five years ago today... ...that the campaign began against EU moves to extend patent law to software. For a little while last year the anti-software patent lobby looked like it had the upper hand, after the European Parliament voted for very strict guidlines on what could be patented. As we know now, this was not to last. The current form of the Directive is somewhat open to interpretation.

Linux alliance fights against Euro software patents

By John Lettice
Published Monday 21st June 1999 13:03 GMT

The EU's current plans to extend patent law to software has been attacked by the EuroLinux Alliance, which points out that current European patent law is already being abused by major companies. The net effect of the continuation of this abuse, or of new laws applying patents to software, will be to make life practically impossible for smaller software developers. The subject is due to come up on Thursday at the Intellectual Property Conference in Paris, where moving to a US-style patent model will be discussed.

According to the Alliance, although software isn't patentable in Europe under the Munich Convention, the European Patent Office (EPO) has been granting patents which can be used to protect programming techniques, computer programmes and software. This is happening because of a loophole in the Munich Convention which allows industrial inventions based on innovative programming techniques to be patented. Says the Alliance: "Software Patents granted by the EPO to protect programming techniques were very few ten years ago and were mainly used by large industrial corporations to protect, for example, computerised oil exploration techniques."

But in the intervening period the EPO has come under increasing pressure from companies trying to patent what they can already patent in the US, where anything "useful and non obvious" can be patented. A recent IBM application shows that "the EPO is now used to grant patents on extremely elementary, if not obvious, programming techniques."

The EU is currently considering removing computer programs from the exceptions list of the Munich Convention, and this would effectively open the floodgates. "It would be possible to use patents to get a monopoly on the use of a business method or an electronic commerce method by patenting as such its implementation in a program for computers," says the Alliance, which has assembled a group of ten industry luminaries, including Tim Berners-Lee, to lobby against the change. It is also now possible to sign a letter to the EU Competition Commissioner, opposing software patents here.


The Directive is not yet law: it must pass its second reading in the European Parliament. Changes are harder, but not impossible, to introduce at this stage. If you feel strongly about this, contact your MEP. ®

Seven Steps to Software Security

More from The Register

next story
KDE releases ice-cream coloured Plasma 5 just in time for summer
Melty but refreshing - popular rival to Mint's Cinnamon's still a work in progress
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
Put down that Oracle database patch: It could cost $23,000 per CPU
On-by-default INMEMORY tech a boon for developers ... as long as they can afford it
Another day, another Firefox: Version 31 is upon us ALREADY
Web devs, Mozilla really wants you to like this one
Google shows off new Chrome OS look
Athena springs full-grown from Chromium project's head
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.