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Mandrake Flash: Software patents - fresh news

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Flash: Software patents - fresh news and call for action


As a follow-up to our latest flash regarding the upcoming decision of

the European Council to legalize software patentability in Europe,

here are some fresh news and information on what you can do to help.


If nothing changes, tomorrow, Tuesday May 18, the European Council,

that is, the European body which represents all the governments of the

European Union, will vote in favor of a directive that will legalize

software patents in Europe. Last September, faced with a similar

choice, the European Parliament voted major amendments to the

directive text drafted by the European Commission, actually rejecting

software patentability. However, the Council, ignoring all of these

amendments, is going to vote in favor of a text that is even worse

than the initial version of the Commission.


Why can the Council take a decision which will be so harmful to the

European software industry? Unlike the Parliament, which is a place

open to the public, where Members of the European Parliament have

had time to study the proposal and hear many positions on the issue

in order to take a well-thought decision, the Council is a closed

body where, due to the alledged complexity of the subject,

representatives of the governments have handed out the file to

committees of experts.


These experts, who re-drafted the text and wrote position papers on

why to vote it, are in fact mostly representatives from the national

patent offices, backed by the heads of the legal departments of some

big industrial companies, all of whom have a common interest: more

patents mean more power for them, irrespective of the harm that will

be done to the economy at large, and even to their own companies. In

the name of "the Industry" and of "innovation", they manipulated the

political decision-makers to make them believe that the new text did

not allow to patent pure software, that it was a good compromise between

the Commission and Parliament texts, and that not all of the

parliamentary amendments could be kept because some of them were

illegal with respect to international treaties such as TRIPS. All of

this is plain lie.


In fact, if voted, the text of the Council would lead to a situation

where big companies with large patent portfolios use these to lock

their respective markets and prevent competition from innovative SMEs,

and where "intellectual property" companies that do not create any

software use their own patent portfolios to collect license fee rents

from everybody. This is the situation which is happening in the US,

putting at risk its successful software industry. This is what may

just happen in Europe in a few months.


However, it is not too late. Because of growing pressure from computer

professionals and from the public, and because they get more and more

feed-back from the media, political decision-makers begin to get aware

of the issues, and to have doubts about the sincerity of the patent

lobby. In some countries, they have taken the file back from the

patent offices



and some countries of the Council have just decided to switch from a

voting procedure without debate to a voting procedure with debate,

as the text gets less and less consensus among the members of the

European Union.


You can convince even more of them to reject software patentability.

In order to do that, please take some time to read about the issues

at stake, and spread the information across your friends and business

contacts, the press, your members of the parliament and your government.

It is essential that elected policy makers get back into command of the

situation and do not leave the patent offices decide alone.


Here are some texts which can help you to present the issues to the

media and to convince policy-makers of all countries of the European



A very readable analysis by François Pellegrini explaining

the legal and economic issues of software patentability:



A thorough analysis by Jonas Maebe of the difference between

the three versions of the directive, and why software patents

are indeed illegal with respect to TRIPS:



Positions of the member countries of the European Union:

http://swpat.ffii.org/akteure/  (add "pt", "ie", "fr",

"de", "be", "gr", etc to have the positions of the

member countries)


The page of the FFII giving some directions for actions:



A recent paper published in the Washington Post describing the

current situation in the United States:

"Patenting Air or Protecting Property? Information Age Invents a New Problem"



31 companies sued for using the JPEG image format (the plaintiff

filed for a patent while recommending the adoption in international

bodies of a standard including its patented technology):



A US company sues companies of on-line content distribution:





A well-documented file on the reference site Law.com:



Thank you very much for your help.


Mandrakesoft Online Team.

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