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Software Patents: Euro No-Patent Movement Needs Help

Support From Major "Closed Source" Companies Is Key to Positioning, Says Florian Mueller

Florian Mueller, the guy who put together NoSoftwarePatents.com, the open source effort to stop the European Union from adopting American-style software patents, says the lobbying initiative, which has come a long way since it got started, will go down in flames without support from "closed source" companies in the $50 million-in-revenues and above class. He says it's key to positioning.

"If the members of the European Parliament perceive this as 'the real industry vs. the open source community,' then it won't work because a majority of MEPs is clearly pro-business. This is a business concern, but then it has to be made clearer that it is, and if that works, then I have no doubts that we'll win," he said in an e-mail.

He said getting that concerted support is "quite difficult because most companies believe writing the occasional letter to a politician, issuing a press release or making a statement in an interview or panel speech is enough to win."

Of course, the corporate world is not a natural ally of the no-patents crowd and the larger European corporates, as well as US firms like Microsoft, are supporting the proposed patent legislation.

It currently looks like the European Parliament will begin reconsidering the proposed legislation over the heads of its many critics the week of April 11.

Meanwhile, Florian is determined to show how widespread support is for the no-patents position. He says the "German government started a survey last summer and when they saw that the 1,400 companies that submitted a questionnaire were overwhelmingly against (and worried about) software patents, they tried to kill the whole survey by saying they wouldn't evaluate it anymore. Then my campaign told people to resubmit their questionnaires to me, and I got almost 25% of the total quantity, and now finally (with that hiatus in the legislative process) I have a chance to publish the results. We'll definitely use some of them in our future lobbying efforts."

He says the results would show that the German government, which voted in favor of software patents in the EU Council, "acted against the interests of more than 99% of its domestic IT companies."

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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Most Recent Comments
ano@nimous.com 03/24/05 10:30:20 PM EST

"Software is a writing and should only have copyright protection (as well as trade secret protection) as it's more like writing a book, writing a play, or composing music, in which a series of instructions is provided and then "played" by others when those instructions are brought to life."

Correct !

Besides, software is sold in a diferent way. They sold licenses, not the software it self. If it is diferent when selling why it could not be diferent when protecting againt code stolen.

David 03/24/05 06:09:00 PM EST

MSFT and the others mega corporations file patents at an alarming rate while complaining about them because they get caught from time to time, but patents haven't protected small inventors for decades now. Patents and software simply don't mix. A software developer has no way to check if something he's inventing with his own mind will violate an existing or pending patent. If some company charges you with a patent violation, it will cost you many thousands of dollars to defend yourself. To be awarded a patent will typically cost several tens of thousands of dollars in lawyers fees. To prosecute a suspected patent violation will require more lawyers' fees. Software is a writing and should only have copyright protection (as well as trade secret protection) as it's more like writing a book, writing a play, or composing music, in which a series of instructions is provided and then "played" by others when those instructions are brought to life. But lawyers write the laws and they want the money, so there's no hope that the currently patently absurd policies will be fixed anytime soon.

Jack 03/22/05 08:35:57 AM EST

Your reporting sucks. How many facts do you check before you report a story? Or do you at all in the effort to be first? You're writing is cold, unfeeling, and and at times unprofessional, and you're letting your personal feelings bias you.

NoSoftwarePatentsinEU 03/21/05 03:12:08 AM EST

Here's what Meuller said 2 weeks ago - rhetoric is back!

"A wannabe Napoleon who heads the Commission and a Microsoft puppet that runs the DG (directorate general) in charge have decided to negate democracy. Now we call on the EU Council to demonstrate a more democratic attitude and to reopen negotiations of its Common Position at the forthcoming meeting of the Competitiveness Council on Monday (7 March)."