December 12, 2008

Petition demands effective ban of software patents in Europe

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Berlin, 12 December 2008 – Backed by the FFII and other organisations, software developers launch a petition in 28 languages to stop software patents and protect European innovators. The petition asks for legislative clarifications to clear out the legal uncertainty and imbalances created by software patents.

Since the rejection of the software patent directive by the European Parliament in 2005, litigation and patent traps have become an even more prominent problem for the market and users of software. The European Patent Office (EPO) and national patent offices continue to grant these software patents and have not adapted their practice, despite the fact that they are facing a patent crisis caused by lowering standards and a lengthening backlog of applications. Meanwhile, court decisions accept and in many cases validate the granted software patents.

Benjamin Henrion, president of the FFII, comments, “the patent community is pushing hard to expand what can be patented. In the face of the growing clamour against software patents, they react with denial (‘we don’t do it!’), incredulity (‘why exclude software?’) and pleading not-guilty (‘we’re just executing the law’). At the same time, they betray their pro-software-patents bias by lobbying the legislator to expand patentability. Hence it is up to democratic forces to bring bureaucracies back under control.”

Ivan Villanueva, coordinator of the European petition, comments, “after the decision on the Symbian case in the UK the president of the European Patent Office, Mrs. Brimelow, has recently made a referral to the Enlarged Board of Appeal (EBoA) on the question of software patents. However, I expect the EBoA will not completely change the current point of view of the European Patent Office, but rather will reaffirm it. With the Stop Software Patents Petition we want to make a loud and clear statement against software patents in Europe, unifying the voices of the European software industry and civil society.”

Reinier Bakels, a patent scholar, also comments about Brimelow’s referral on the question of software patents, “The lawmakers in the member states ought to be leading rather than letting the EPO do so with its defective democratic legitimacy. This is not just a ‘technical’ legal matter, but a policy decision.” He continues and agrees with Villanueva, “the referral has little to do with the real questions on software patentability. Concepts such as ‘technical contribution’, ‘further technical contribution’ and ‘technical considerations’ are part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Obviously the EBoA is only supposed to confirm present policies, not to give a fresh view.”

Henrion adds, “patents on software are a danger which companies of all sizes worldwide are becoming aware of, but many judges and lawyers don’t seem to understand the problems they present. For instance recently in the USA, the judge of the Bilski case refused to comment on the subject of software patents, ignoring several Amicus Briefs from the software industry. We need legislative clarifications ruling out software patents. This is what our petition asks for.”

The organisers call on businesses and organisations to add their signatures and promote the petition between its customers or supporters.

The petition can be signed at

Contact

FFII Berlin Office
Malmöer Str. 6
10439 Berlin
Germany
Phone: +49-30-41722597
Fax service: +49-721-509663769
Email: office at ffii.org

About

The FFII is a not-for-profit association active in over fifty countries, dedicated to the development of information goods for the public benefit, based on copyright, free competition, and open standards. More than 1000 members, 3,500 companies and 100,000 supporters have entrusted the FFII to act as their voice in public policy questions concerning exclusion rights in data processing.