July 8, 2005

Patent lobbyists “wasted millions, deny defeat” in EU software patent battle

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Munich, 08 July 2005. Even after the EU Parliament’s rejection of a controversial directive, the war of words rages on between opponents and proponents of software patents. Anti-patent campaigners today criticized the lobbyists in the other camp for “excessive spin doctoring”.

Hartmut Pilch, the president of the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII), cannot see why the proponents of software patents would truly welcome yesterday’s outcome: “No matter what the others say, article 52 of the European Patent Convention is still in force, and it clearly disallows patents on computer software. Our opponents wanted to dilute that article by means of an EU directive, and the headway they made amounts to zero.”

In Mr. Pilch’s opinion, “legitimate concerns over the negative effects of software patents to the economy and to innovation” have received a level of attention in the media and in politics all across Europe “that wouldn’t have been imaginable without this legislative process.” He also pointed out that various national parliaments passed resolutions in favor of his organization’s demands. After the failure of the process at an EU level, Pilch believes that lawmakers in the EU member states may take initiatives.

“After they just wasted many millions of Euros on lobbying and public relations, they now want to soothe their bosses and clients by denying their all-too-obvious defeat”, said Florian Mueller, the founder of the NoSoftwarePatents.com campaign. “If I had spent so much money, I’d want to walk out of the shop with something more than a failed attempt to enshrine software patents in European statutory law. They could have had that for free any time.”

The pro-patent efforts had reached major proportions. Free ice cream to more than 500 people was actually one of the minor expenses. Pro-patent organizations hosted events in the European Parliament and various capitals of Europe on an almost daily basis during the three months of the EP’s second reading. They produced various videos; hired a former president of the EP (Pat Cox) and several high-profile PR agencies; placed a large banner on the front of a building close to the EP; and they had dozens of full-time lobbyists — a number of them high-paid lawyers — stationed in Brussels for months. One of the leading pro-patent campaigners had made himself a name with a 30-million Euro campaign for gene patents.

Mr. Mueller pointed out that the same pro-patent lobbyists who now welcome the abrupt termination of the legislative process were the same ones who spoke out against a restart of the legislative process when the European Parliament requested so from the EU Commission in February. “It was our side that convinced MEPs of the benefits of a fresh start, and the others told politicians that they needed this directive as soon as possible. Then, less than three weeks ago they hailed the fact that the EP’s Legal Affairs Committee didn’t support key amendments to the proposed directive. They thought they were closer than ever to achieving their goals, so how can they possibly be happy now?”

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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
jmaebe at ffii org
tel. 0032-485-369645

Dieter Van Uytvanck
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. FFII supports the development of public information goods based on copyright, free competition, open standards. More than 3,000 companies and 90,000 individuals have entrusted the FFII to act as their voice in public policy questions concerning software copyright and patents.