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02 September 2008, 13:32

Global day of protest against software patents planned

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A coalition of more than 80 software vendors, associations, organisations including the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII), patentfrei and developers have announced that September 24th will be a global campaign day against software patents. Called World Day Against Software Patents, activities will include protesters gathering at the doors of patent offices and raising awareness about problems stemming from the commercial protection of computer programs. In addition, advocates will be able to sign a petition online calling for an immediate stop to software patents. Additional signatures will be collected separately in special campaigns in regions such as Europe, the US, and India.

September 24 was chosen because five years ago the European Parliament planned to expand commercial protection for computer programs; on that day, the European Commission's highly controversial proposal for a directive to patent "computer-implemented inventions" was read for the first time. The organisers of the protest emphasise that members of the European Parliament initially adopted modifications mainly designed to protect small software firms from the "damaging effects of widespread, trivial software patents".

After a storm of protest and intensive lobbying against the project, the European Parliament finally put the directive to rest on second reading in July of 2005. They did not close the current legal loopholes in the patenting of software in Europe, which the European Patent Office is using in a loose interpretation of the European Patent Agreement. The Indian Patent Office is also currently paving the way for software patents more or less through the back door, despite the Indian Parliament's claims to the contrary.

FFII's Benjamin Henrion, who founded the coalition behind "StopSoftwarePatents", says that the goal of this new campaign is to have software clearly excluded from future patents worldwide. He says that this is the best solution to solve the problem of "patent trolls" and uncontrollable risks resulting from temporary monopolies for computer programs. He is therefore calling on the entire software sector to form a united front against software patents. Major players in the industry, such as IBM and Microsoft continue to support patents for "computer-implemented inventions" and have merely indicated that they might support moderate reform of the US patent system. Henrion says that their calls for "greater quality" in the patent system and "lower damage claims" merely address the symptoms without getting to the root of the problem.

(Stefan Krempl)


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