20 June 2005. The Economic Majority speaks out against software patents, loud and clear. Even before the official launch of the campaign, more than 800 companies representing over 17,000 employees and a turnover of more than 1.5 billion Euro have pledged their support. Donating already over 91,000 euro to the fight against software patents, they put their money where their mouth is. The FFII invites all concerned companies to undersign the declaration at http://www.economic-majority.com
Hundreds of European companies, along with a handful of US enterprises, are joining forces to prove the European Commission’s assertion that there is an “economic majority in favour of software patents” is wrong. The Commission concluded this from a survey it held in 2000, where over 90% of respondents were against extending patentability. Most of those were discarded due to supposedly not being economically representative.
The campaign website also already contains 47 testimonies of various companies, in which they describe how software patents would directly affect their business. “Software patents are expropriation, the taking-by-force of copyrighted works using dubious legalistic tools”, says Pieter Hintjens, CEO of the Belgian company iMatix, whose sms@ product allows for instant deployment of web-administrated sms services.
Indeed, one of the first concerns mentioned on the campaign website is that “we need to be sure that we own what we write”. Software patents are often said to be complementary to copyright, by covering the “underlying ideas” as opposed to the actual implementation. In practice, they severely weaken other forms of intellectual property such as copyright, time to market, trade secrets and trademarks. They are not just complementary, but take away other rights as well.
Winfried Schäfer, CEO of the German Pentaprise GmbH, confirms: “Developing customized software always is overshadowed by the risk that one spends ample time into design and implementation of software mechanisms and then later it turns out that the chosen approach runs into patent risks.” The Economic Majority therefore calls for strictly limiting the patent system to applied natural science.
Andrej Mertelj, CEO of Datalab, a Slovenian Enterprise Resource Planning solutions company, notes effects on venture funding: “The hardest hit came from the financiers. Since the environment of software developers was drastically changed with the possible codification of software patents, the future looks uncertain. Our company planned to start a second round of financing with invited venture capital. Due to uncertainties and potential large threats from the major players we expect to pay a higher discount on our offering, effectively raising less cash.”
Today, the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs (JURI) Committee will vote on the amendments tabled to Mr Rocard’s report on the software patents directive. The concerns of the Economic Majority are addressed by many of the amendments tabled to this JURI report by Mr Rocard (PSE) himself, Mrs Kauppi (EPP), Mrs Kudrycka (EPP), Mr Zwiefka (EPP), Mrs Frassoni (VERD/EFA), Mrs Lichtenberger (VERD/EFA) and Mr Bertinotti (GUE/NGL). The FFII urges JURI members to follow Mr Rocard’s or the FFII’s voting list, available from http://www.ffii.org/amend
erjos at ffii.org
FFII Brussels Representative
ffii at kmu-software.de
FFII Brussels Organisation
About the FFII
The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) is a non-profit association registered in several European countries, which is dedicated to the spread of data processing literacy. The FFII supports the development of public information goods based on copyright, free competition, open standards. More than 500 members, 1,400 companies and 80,000 supporters have entrusted the FFII to act as their voice in public policy questions concerning exclusion rights (intellectual property) in data processing. The FFII maintains offices in Munich and Brussels and national supporter groups in most European countries.