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The Eurolinux Alliance of European software companies and Open Source associations launches a pan-European petition to keep Europe free from software patents.
Together with this petition, the EuroLinux Alliance publishes The EuroLinux File on Software Patents a document which lets everyone understand in less than 15 minutes the dangers posed by software patents. This document, based on thorough economical and legal analysis, exhibits clear evidences of the negative impact of software patents on innovation and competition. It shows that the European Commission has mainly taken into account the point of view of patent attorneys, dominant players in the electronic industry and recent rulings of the United States Patent Office, leaving away the point of view of innovative European software publishers. Also, the decision making process at the European Commission does not seem to implement provisions of the Rome Treaty calling for a high level of competition, consumer protection, public safety, industrial growth and cultural diversity in Europe.
Frank Hoen, President of NetPresenter, a Dutch company which invented Internet push technology, warns:
Financial analysts should be aware that the software patent system, as it has evolved in the US, generates many costly legal disputes but does not succeed in protecting real software inventors or investors.
It is a system which allows companies with a strong legal team, and often no merit, to rip-off or block innovative companies.
As it has been highlighted by MIT and Harvard economists, a system based on copyright, or copyright-like sui generis Law, protects investment in software technologies much better than the current US patent system.
"Thank God that Patent Law wasn't around when the French language was born", says Jacques Le Marois, President of Mandrakesoft, who adds
Software Patents are a major concern, not only for the GNU/Linux & Open Source Software industry, but for the whole information technology industry. Software publishers and innovative internet businesses in the US constantly face the risk of a patent war, just because obvious techniques such as publishing a database on the Web were granted a patent. This system generates more losses than revenue for the IT industry.
Roland Dyroff, CEO of SuSE Linux AG, adds:
In the field of software, unlike other industries, introducing patents can lead to counter-productive effects on innovation. Writing software is very similar to writing a book. It is not too difficult to come up with great ideas. But the challenge is to provide a clean and reliable implementation of those ideas, which is precisely what copyright protects. Granting patents for software is the same as granting patents for generic ideas of books. If a patent had been granted for writing a novel describing the actual life of a historic personality through a fiction, and if authors were required to pay licenses to write such novels, few authors would keep on writing historical novels. The same applies to the software publishing industry. Therefore I believe Copyright Law has proven to be the most adequate intellectual property framework in order to protect software publishers while at the same time promoting diversity and innovation.
"Internet technology has been built on patent-free software. E-commerce is based on this patent-free technology and it is generating one of the fastest economic growths in history." says Ralf Schwöbel, CEO of Intradat, a leading E-Commerce software publisher in Germany,
introducing internet patents in this complex system may just trigger a recession cycle instead of boosting economic growth. I am quite surprised that European Authorities never considered this possibility, especially given the patent-free nature of Internet technology.
Agrees Jean-Pierre Laisné, CEO of Linbox SA:
If everyone who writes a simple web application is a potential patent infringer, who is going to take the risk of becoming a criminal for combining a database server, a web server and a scripting language? With the tremendous legal risk generated by software patents, no one is free any longer to use his or her brains to develop and market innovative services over the Internet.
This campaign comes as a response of IT associations and software companies to recent ideological speeches from the Directorate for the Internal Market at the European Commission, which indicate that the European Commission will likely issue a directive to extend the scope of European patents to software and intellectual methods, completely ignoring the concerns raised by leading software companies, refusing to study the general economic effects of software patenting, and even rejecting without explanation arguments raised by other Organs of the European Commission.
Previous petitions on this subject had quickly reached more than 10,000 signatures from software developers. This petition is just the beginning of a new campaign based on (hopefully not yet patented) advanced e-techniques to let volunteers participate in the lobbying effort. It will be formally filed within three months at the European Parliament.
The EuroLinux Alliance for a Free Information Infrastructure is an open coalition of commercial companies and non-profit associations united to promote and protect a vigourous European Software Culture based on Open Standards, Open Competition and OpenSource System Software. The corporate members and sponsors of EuroLinux develop or sell software under free, semi-free and non-free licenses for operating systems such as GNU/Linux, MacOS or MS Windows. The EuroLinux Alliance has co-organised in 1999, together with the French Embassy in Japan, the first Europe-Japan conference on Linux and Free Software. The EuroLinux Alliance is at the initiative of the www.freepatents.org web site to promote and protect innovation and competition in the European IT industry.