April 25, 2005

EICTA sends Microsoft to represent SMEs on software patents in EP

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Brussels, 25 April 2005. Apparently unable to find enough independent small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to lobby for software patents, EICTA has resorted to sending companies to the European Parliament in which its multinational members hold a strong position. Additionally, several SMEs who were inspired by this action and signed EICTA’s appeal turn out not to have any software patents at all.

“The patent system in Europe has worked well for us in the past”, says Jan Ishøj Nielsen, CEO of PremiTech A/S. However, he forgets to mention that his company’s first European software patent is still waiting to be granted (its US cousin is already valid) and that the Chairman of the Board of his company is Klaus Holse Andersen, VP Microsoft Business Solutions EMEA. Mr. Andersen was previously also CEO of the investment company IVS, another signatory of EICTA’s demands.

Apart from sending SMEs to Brussels, EICTA also organised a letter writing campaign to the European Parliament. While for most companies the CEO has signed this letter, in case of Giritech the CTO observes the honours. One reason for this might be that the CEO of Giritech, René Stockne, has a second job as global manager for Microsoft Navision. This is the same Microsoft Navision that threatened the Danish government with moving out of Denmark if the software patents do not come through.

Jonas Maebe, FFII Board Member, adds:

  • It is really sad how low EICTA is sinking here. Unable to factually counter the resistance to software patents from real SME associations such as UEAPME and CEAPME, they are now resorting to dressing up Microsoft as an SME. “Oh, grandmother, what big teeth you have got” indeed.

Some other companies that signed the letter and which are not tied to any big firms, have simply been improperly informed about the reach of the European Parliament’s amendments. For example, Te Strake, an innovative Dutch SME active in the field of “mechatronics”, owns several patents on inventions related to automated weaving. According to an analysis performed by the FFII, all of their patents would remain enforceable under the directive as approved by European Parliament in first reading.

Hartmut Pilch, President of the FFII, comments on the results of FFII’s preliminary analysis:

  • Preliminary research shows that most of these companies own less than a handful of patents and that the claimed solutions either involve forces of nature and are largely unaffected by the Parliament’s first reading, or are in the realm of abstract problem descriptions or business methods and thus should, according to these companies’ own “Manifesto”, not be patentable.

Nevertheless, the fact that EICTA’s tactics work to a certain extent was demonstrated last week at the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) meeting. A number of MEPs there was convinced that most SMEs do want software patents, and that “only programmers” oppose them. The FFII therefore urgently calls upon the real SMEs to stand up and to make their voice heard in Brussels.

Extra information

Contact

Hartmut Pilch and Holger Blasum
Munich Office
info at ffii org
tel. 0049-89-18979927

Erik Josefsson
Brussels Office
erjos at ffii org
tel. 0032-2-7396262

Jonas Maebe
FFII Board member
jmaebe at ffii org
tel. 0032-485-369645

Dieter Van Uytvanck
FFII BE
dieter at vrijschrift.org
tel. 0031-6-275-87910

About 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.