Brussels, 2nd September 2008 — A global coalition of more than 80 software companies, associations and developers has declared the 24th of September to be the “World Day Against Software Patents”. Five years ago, on 24 September 2003, the European Parliament adopted amendments to limit the scope of patent law and thereby protect small software companies from the harmful effects of broad and trivial software patents. A global petition asking to effectively stop software patents worldwide will be launched on 24 September 2008, together with specific additional requests for certain regions such as Europe, the United States or India.
On 24 September 2008, the World Day Against Software Patents will provide volunteers with the opportunity to express the growing concerns of users, businesses and developers. The granting of software patents by patent offices around the world affects their freedom to innovate. The organisers expect 24h of activities across the globe. Volunteers will gather in front of patent offices to inform the general public of the problems underlying software patenting.
A global petition demanding to effectively stop software patents worldwide will be launched on the same day. In some regions of the world such as Europe, the United States, or India, dedicated campaigns are being prepared by local supporters. The organisers intend to celebrate the World Day on an annual basis unless substantive clarifications are adopted in national laws that stop software patenting along with their effects on the digital economy.
Benjamin Henrion, initiator of the StopSoftwarePatents coalition effort, explains “The aim behind StopSoftwarePatents is to gather a worldwide coalition of businesses and civil society in order to get laws which clearly exempt software from patentable subject matter. This is the best solution for getting rid of ‘patent trolls’ and uncontrollable legal risks generated by software patents. The day the software industry forms a clear front against software patents will be the beginning of the end for the ‘patent trolls’.”
The Belgian campaigner was among the persons who persuaded the members of the European Parliament five years ago to adopt amendments that limit the scope of patent law in order to protect small software companies. The European Council of Ministers – where national patent offices exercise significant influence – fiercely insisted on making software patents legal in Europe. Additionally, ‘patent trolls’ and US-based corporations invested large lobby resources to support the position of the Council. After a long struggle, the proposed directive was finally rejected by the European Parliament in its second reading. Since then, European and national patent offices continue to grant these software and business method patents without an approval of the legislator by creative interpretation of the European Patent Convention.
In few other nations, notably the US, the patent offices are even more permissive. However, even in the US, no legislator ever approved the practise. The global coalition calls for a larger representation of business and civil society against software patents. The current lobby gap makes Congress and Senate, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) and the Supreme Court susceptible to lobbying from patent industries, holders and patent professionals. Although companies affected by software patent litigation have been lobbying for a reform, their advocacy for “quality” and “lower damages” targets the symptoms rather than the roots of the problem.
Anwar Ummer Arackal, CEO of OpenFirms, a consulting company for some of the leading health care organizations and companies in India, says “Patents in the field of software hinders the accessibility to technology of our government health care clients who depend mainly on large scale deployment of embedded devices for functioning. This situation would lead to monopoly and anti competitive strategies.”
Stefane Fermigier, founder and chairman of Nuxeo SAS, says: “It is most important for the future of our company and our ecosystem, and for software innovation in general, that the tremendous legal uncertainties introduced by software patents for true innovators are kept out of the market.”
Marco Schulze, manager of Nightlabs, a professional supplier of ticketing solutions based in Freiburg, Germany, says: “Small Software companies cannot afford to go to court or pay damages. Who is this software patent system for?”
PatentFrei, a coalition of 1000 German software businesses united against software patents, explains: “The copyright law, which should guaranty the copyright holder the security of an appropriate reimbursement, has become an empty shell. The creativity of software developers has been replaced by the creativity of patent lawyers with the writing of broad patent claims. Politicians are asked today more than ever to bring back a patent system which has gone off course, and to stop granting patents on software.”
Jean-Paul Smets, founder of the Noepatents petition in 2000 and CEO of Nexedi software publication, considers that the “European Union is the world most friendly region for software innovators. Unlike in the US, Software Entrepreneurs can focus on R&D and do not need to worry about the risks of costly patent litigations or absurd software patents trolls.”
Eneko Astigarraga, CEO of CodeSyntax, a software company located in the Basque Country, says: “It’s clear that software patents reduce competition and innovation in the software industry, patents represent a brake on innovation, especially on Internet.”
Charles-H. Schulz, Partner at Ars Aperta: “Software patents exclude competition, force companies out of business, drive up costs, impoverish states and hinder their citizens to innovate and create revenues. We chose to accept competition and foster innovation.”
Pieter Hintjens, founder and CEO of iMatix Corporation, which provides messaging solutions to the worlds financial markets, says “Patents are for firms that can’t compete without state intervention. We were free to innovate in high-speed communications protocols because Europe was free of software patents. We have always seen the US-style patenting of basic ideas to be a curse on the fast-moving software business. Software patents are protectionist voodoo.”
Alberto Barrionuevo, President of Andalibre, the Association of open source companies of Andalusia, says “Software patents, if legalized, would destroy the most part of the IT business sector in the world. AndaLibre is strongly against any software patent and will fight for the freedom of creation in software.”
Matthew Holloway, the author of Docvert, says “Software patents are inherently broad and always result in government granted monopolies that allow one company to outlaw their competitors. Because of this software patents stifle innovation and economies. Allowing one company to own a software idea is as foolish as allowing one company to own a food idea. In my career I have never seen a software idea that was patent worthy.”
Hartmut Pilch, board member and former President of the FFII e.V., explained in 2006 how the patent system can be saved: “My message to the patent world is: Either get back to the doctrines of forces of nature or face the elimination of your system.”
John Ingleby, of Schoolforge UK, says “Software patents hamper development of new software by increasing legal costs while at the same time enabling concealment rather than publication of innovations.”
Richard Stallman, Founder of GNU Project and Free Software Foundation, says “Software patents are a threat to all software developers and all software users. Just one patent can ruin years of work, and no software project is safe: with each design decision, there is a chance you will step on a patent that will explode and destroy your project. To make software development safe for the developers and the users, we must abolish software patents.”
Bruce Perens, creator of the Open Source Definition, and advisor to governments and industries, says “Software patents are a drag on innovation in the countries that have implemented them, vastly increasing the cost of producing real products in the proprietary software world because they replace innovation with litigation. But we’re most concerned with them because they are entirely incompatible with Open Source, which is the strongest driver of innovation in software development today.”
ANSOL, the Portuguese association for Free Software advocacy: “Asking for software patents is nothing more than creating an arms race. And we all know why arm dealers love those and the normal people who end up paying hate them.”
Call for a World Day Against Software Patents signed by more then 80 stakeholders: http://stopsoftwarepatents.org/call
Draft petition with Request for public comments: http://stopsoftwarepatents.org/petition
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