Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure

The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) is a European alliance defending your right to free and competitive software creation since 1999. We are working towards the mitigation of legal risks in software development. We do so by keeping software free from patents and promoting a digital infrastructure based on genuine open standards and free and open hardware and software.

The FFII famously made a difference to prevent a EU software patent directive and continues to shed light on the schemes of the patent system to enter the software sphere and detach itself from democratic and fiscal oversight. One recent example is the Unified Patent Court (UPC). A specialised court which fences patent reforms off. We rely on networking with the European Parliament members and partners from industry and civil society. Its work won the FFII the Outstanding contribution to software development prize by CNET.

Status of Software Patents in Europe

Now comes round 3. It started in July 2005, when the proponents of software patentability agreed to drop the directive and push for the Unitary Patent instead.

FFII summarizes the situation:

“In July 2005, after several failed attempts to legalise software patents in Europe, the patent establishment changed its strategy. Instead of explicitely seeking to sanction the patentabilitty of software, they are now seeking to create a central Unitary patent court (UPC), which would establish and enforce patentability rules in their favor, without any possibility of correction by competing courts or democratically elected legislators.”

Former EPO lobbyist, David Sant, also recognises that the Unitary Patent Court will lead to the validation of software patents:

“The acrimonious debate over the proposed directive on computer-implemented inventions might never have arisen if the patent litigation system in Europe had been unified, thereby eliminating the possibility of disparate national rulings on the same patent matter.”

Richard Stallman, of the Free Software Foundation (FSF), in Europe’s “unitary patent” could mean unlimited software patents:

“The volunteer activists drifted away, thinking the battle won, but the corporate lobbyists for software patents were paid to stay on the job. Now they have contrived another sneaky method: the “unitary patent” system proposed for the EU.”

See more quotes here.

Working Groups at FFII

Members have established a number of working groups at the FFII to achieve specified goals in areas such as software patents, open standards, transparency, trade agreements and other digital and consumer related topics. Examples of common goals for working groups at the FFII include: Creation of informational documents on patent legislation related to software, creation of open document standards, resolution of problems related to International legal topics and trade negotiations, continuous improvement of IT systems and open access for researchers, educators and scientists.

Software Patents Working Group

Educating the public and protecting rights of developers, technology innovators and consumers are core aims in the FFII statutes. The FFII software patents group engages in numerous activities around the world to achieve these goals. A landmark was the Bilski case at the US Supreme Court: The FFII and IP Justice filed a joint Amicus Curiae Brief to the U.S. Supreme Court. The case Bilski v. Kappos is expected to become a landmark ruling on the future of the U.S. patent system. Our Brief explains the interlink of software and business methods, and points out alternatives to the so called Machine-or-Transformation test used for categorizing patents. Bilski v. Kappos is considered the single most important decision worldwide on the issue of patents on business methods, software and algorithms since the rejection of the EU Software Patents Directive.

WIPO Working Group

The FFII is a registered observer organisation at WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation). The FFII WIPO group participates in activities of stakeholders and in the WIPO Conference on Intellectual Property and Public Policy Issues and on the thirteenth session of the WIPO Standing Committee on the Law of Patents. Reports are available to FFII members.

Transparency Working Group

The goal of the transparency working group is to enable better public transparency of preparatory documents from the European Council of Ministers for citizens of the Union and civil society persons. It is part of FFII’s focus on eGovernment and OpenData contributions to democratic citizenship. 

Trade Agreements Working Group

The Trade Agreements working group was originally started when the EU, US and Japan negotiated an Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) behind closed doors. No official drafts were published. The FFII followed closely the negotiations. ACTA contained a new international benchmark for legal frameworks on the enforcement of copyrights, trade mark rights, patents and others. The FFII outlined shortcomings and democratic deficit, presented an analysis and put together a draft recommendation to conclude ACTA under the Lisbon regime. The FFII issued several press releases which have been broadly covered by the media.

Patented Webshop

The example of the FFII Patented Webshop demonstrates the effect of trivial software patent grants for business freedom in Europe. Website and posters are available in German and English.

Amazon Gift Ordering Patent

The FFII e.V. used the opportunity to file an opposition proceeding against the gift ordering patent (EP0927945 “Method and system for placing a purchase order via a communications network”) as an example for an eCommerce patent. Find out more about the FFII vs Amazon case.

Interoperability with Open Documents

The FFII ensures consumer rights and interoperability by researching and educating the public about EU policies such as the European Interoperability Framework. With the Document Freedom Award we award excellent examples of institutions on the Document Freedom Day. Former awarded companies include 1&1 for offering an open standards based and interoperable chat application. tagesschau.de was awarded for making their programs available in the open video format “Ogg Theora”.

Endorsement of Göttingen Declaration on Copyright in Education and Science

The FFII endorses the Göttingen Declaration Aktionsbündnis Urheberrecht für Bildung und Wissenschaft. FFII e.V. also has a working group dealing with the developments in the field of copyright.

World Day Against Software Patents

24th September is the annual World Day Against Software Patents to commemorate the struggle against the European Union Software Patent Directive. As every year our teams raise awareness about the impact of patents on the future of software development, even joined by activities in India.

Event Participation and Organization

Members of the FFII regularly give presentations to educate the public. We participate in events about software patents, open standards, net neutrality, data retention and free informational infrastructures. Already in 2009 members like our Munich legal scholar Georg Jakob held a presentation on current software patent related challenges in Europe at LinuxTag Berlin. In the same year Alberto Barrionuevo represented the FFII in Barcelona at the Free Culture Forum with a talk about civil digital rights and open standards. The FFII also participated are the The Knowright conference on the Interaction of Information Related Rights, Information Technology and Knowledge Management in Barcelona. At HSF Paris Benjamin Henrion presented the EU Software Patents. During the Evolution Summit by Civil Society groups the FFII promoted a conception of culture that benefits everybody – citizens, creators and entrepreneurs – a model that stimulates creativity and not just collection, and, above all, a model that does respect the Internet. In following years we continued our participation at Linuxtag with workshops about developments in software patents and open standards. In 2015 FOSDEM’ the FFII board met with stakeholders and movers in the Free and Open Source community. The FFII is an organizer of the OpenTechSummit in Berlin. Read more about our event activities on our blog.

Become a Volunteer

With all the activities of the FFII e.V. the participation and support of volunteers is of utmost importance. Please join us and subscribe to our mailing list to receive our calls for volunteers.