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2001-02-28: Eurolinux letter to the EU patent legislators

In late february 2001, the Eurolinux Alliance sent a letter to the European Commission's Industrial Property Unit (ECIPU), asking them to resume consultations on computer-implementable rules of organisation and calculation, which was seen to have been interrupted, and proposing a few questions and a methodological framework for further discussions and research. Therebey the Eurolinux Alliance reacts to an internal position papers in which the ECIPU seemed to have adopted unsound methods, such as hiding and misinterpreting consultation results in order to push national governments to support their project of legalising software patents in Europe.


Munich, Brussels, Amsterdam and Leipzig

The Eurolinux Alliance has sent a letter to the European Commission, asking them to resume consultations on software patentability which seem to have been interrupted.

The European Commission had called for submission of statements on the question of how software should be treated by the patent system. Between Oct 15 and Dec 15 more than 1000 programmers had sent statements describing the negative impact of software patents on their work and calling on the European Commission to stop promoting the practise of the European Patent Office (EPO), which has granted approximately 30000 patents on computer program features.

At the European Commission, the Directorate for the Internal Market (DGIM) is in charge of patent affairs and of the consultation. The patent law experts in charge at DGIM have during the past few years fully supported the position of the European Patent Office. The consultation paper published by the DGIM accurately restates this position. On Dec 21, the DGIM has hosted a conference of selected patent experts from the national governments and the European Patent Office, who unanimously encouraged the DGIM to go ahead and prepare a directive soon, so as to impose the practise of the EPO on national patent courts who have been reluctant to grant software patents.

Hartmut Pilch, spokesman of the Eurolinux Alliance of software companies and non-profit associations "European Patent Corporation" responsible of having "illegally littered the information highway" with a "big pile of poisonous waste", a "Horror Gallery of European Software Patents".

Frank Hoen, CEO of Netpresenter, the Dutch inventors web push technologies, explains:

Patenting software ideas is like prohibiting the use of certain structure elements in the plot of a novel. It is ridiculous, because the difficulty does not lie in thinking up the individual elements but in putting together a well-formed complex work. If the EPO has its way, every one of our software projects will have to be followed by a few hundred expensive patent applications. And even then, we are at the mercy of predators who don't write software but just engage in the lucrative business of milking the software industry.

Xuan Baldauf, CEO of Medianet GmbH in Leipzig and speaker of the Federation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) adds:

The patent lawyers at the Euoropean Commission are about to deprive us of our copyright to our own programs. At least they are making copyright worthless. And they are abolishing our freedom of expression. Just because programmers are a minority and most people are not fully aware of the nature of programming, these patent lawyers seem to believe that they can get away with stripping us of basic civil rights. They are acting against the Europe's legal tradition, which prohibits the patenting of programming solutions and, in general, any solution which can be validated by pure logic, without testing the effect of natural forces. The patent lawyers at the European Commission know this. They use traditional legal terms such as "technical character" and "technical contribution". But these terms no longer mean anything. They have been reduced to the status of political codewords. This reminds me of our politbureau of former days. Honnecker's friends spoke a lot about "people's democracy", "socialist realism" etc. Ten years after the peaceful revolution, I am surprised to meet again the same ambivalent Orwellian Newspeak, the same docile faith in party dogma, the same defiance of law and economics, the same reluctance to consult the public.

Meanwhile, the EC consultation has apparently stalled, and only a tiny fraction of the submitted consultation papers have been published on the DGIM website.

Figures about the Petition for a Software Patent Free Europe

Number of Signatures:
Number of corporate sponsors:
Number of signatures by country:
Germany (16663), France (11824), Spain (3959), Italy (3586), Denmark (3236), Sweden (2370), Netherlands (2119), Austria (1836), Belgium (1810), Switzerland (1440), Finnland (1360), Czechia (974)
Number of individual signatures by company:
Siemens (112), IBM (109), Ericsson (97), Cap Gemini (82), SuSE (81), Nokia (71), France Telecom / Wanadoo (71), Alcatel (66), Hewlett Packard (52), Atos (48), MandrakeSoft (47), SNCF (French Railways) (30), ID PRO (30), Deutsche Telekom (29), SAP (29), Sun Microsystems (26), Oracle (21), EDF (21), innominate AG (21), Lucent Technologies (21), CERN (20), debis (20), Alcôve (18), Belgacom / Skynet (17), Nortel (17), Cisco (14)


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Press Contacts

France and Europe:
Jean-Paul Smets-Solanes, +33-662057614
Germany and Europe:
Hartmut Pilch, +49-89-18979927
dido@prosa.it, +39-049-8774950
Luuk Van Dijk, +31 6 224 97 227, see VOSN en Software Patenten
Denmark and Denmark:
Anne Ƙstergaard

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