Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Freeman-Walter-Abele In Europe? Ja!: National governments of the European Union are not in agreement with the European parliament over the nature of a proposed law on software patentability

Unlike copyright, patents can block independent creations. Software patents can render software copyright useless. Advances in software are advances in abstraction. While traditional patents were for concrete and physical inventions, software patents cover ideas. In most countries, software has, like mathematics and other abstract subject matter, been explicitly considered to be outside the scope of patentable inventions.

Patents, unlike copyright, can give holders rights to charge for, or restrict, technology no matter who produces it, leaving open-source developers and users open to infringement claims for inadvertently distributing patented methods.

Germany has decided to vote against all changes to current European patent laws. It does not want American procedures in Europe. It is the largest EU member and it, being against software patents with the French IT leaders backing them by lobbying their government to vote against them too, Europe might be saved from the software patents.

A lack of uniform rules in the 25-nation bloc means that US companies such as Microsoft, are leading European firms in patenting software.

The chief technology officers of 10 European companies including Siemens, Nokia and Philips in a letter say that industry ministers must act to safeguard innovation in Europe.

To become a law, the legislation must be approved by the European Parliament, which voted last September to ban patents on software and business methods.
The European Patent Office has so far granted more than 30000 patents on rules of organization and calculation claimed in terms of general-purpose computing equipment, called "programs for computers" in the law of 1973 and "computer-implemented inventions" in EPO Newspeak since 2000.

The European Commission has proposed to override the current clear and uniform European patentability rules ("mathematical methods, schemes and rules for mental activity, methods of doing business and programs for computers are not patentable inventions") and replace them by a set of nationally implementable rules which make it very difficult for national courts to reject patents on algorithms and business methods such as Amazon One Click Shopping.

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