Stop software patents now
Paris, May 16th 2012. Press release.
The next Competitiveness Council will be held on May 30th and 31st 2012. François Hollande's government will be attending it for the first time1. April calls upon the French president to take this opportunity to act against software patents and to bring up the flaws and the issues of the current unitary patent project.
Far from the European Commission's announcements, presenting it as a reform that will "foster competition"2, the draft regulation on the unitary patent is increasingly criticized because of the legal uncertainties it generates and because of its lack of compliance with the European institutions. Lawyers3, large corporations4 as well as civil society have pointed out the dangers of this project: it grants most of the powers around granting patents to the European Patent Office (EPO), whose excesses towards software patents have been denounced for a long time by April. Such software patents are far from protecting innovation as they represent weapons towards economic war, only available to a few large corporations. These corporations therefore stop other players, including Free Software, from innovating and from offering their products5. Furthermore, the organization of the new specialized patent court might lead to new abuses, since it will not be subjected to any control from an independent court, especially when it comes to deciding what is patentable and what is not. A limited number of lawyers specialized in patents would thus be controlling the entire patent system in Europe. The European Union would thus be waiving its jurisdiction in patent law to an non-EU body, without any democratic control.
Despite the insistence of many players including April who pointed out these dangers, both the European Commission and the Council have ignored criticism6, even though solutions exist to create a unitary patent respectful of European law. A legal control by the European Court of Justice would be a simple way to ensure a minimal level of control and the application of European law. The European bodies, including the French government, must also look into the patent laws and redefine what is patentable and what is not. This observation is even shared by Fleur Pellerin, the French Deputy Minister responsible for SMEs, for innovation and for the digital economy. She has clearly expressed her opposition to software patents during the French presidential campaign and she has pointed out the dangers within the current project of unitary patent in her answer to April's Candidats.fr questionnaire: "The European bodies, from which stem most of the innovation policies within Europe, should be recognized a greater power than they are today".
"With this first Competitiveness EU Council, the French president and the government have a unique opportunity to act against software patents and on the legal uncertainties that threaten Free Software as well as many companies, especially SMEs and SMIs, by preventing them from innovating" says Lionel Allorge, April's President."An overhaul of the entire European patent system is essential to avoid getting into a situation similar to that of the United States, in which millions of dollars are wasted because of an out of control patent system, and to ensure a democratic control over the patent system"
April calls upon François Hollande and his new government to act against software patents by improving the unitary patent project currently being discussed within the European institutions so that it guarantees the balance of power and legal certainty for companies. April would like to offer its help in achieving that goal.
Pioneer of free software in France, April is since 1996 a major player in the democratisation and the spread of Free Software and open standards to the general public, professionals and institutions in the French-speaking world. In the digital era that is ours, it also aims to inform the public on the dangers of an exclusive appropriation ofinformation an knowledge by private interests.
The association has over 5,000 members, using or producing Free Software.
- 1. The "competitiveness" EU Council gathers the industry ministers of the EU Member States
- 2. Within the scope of Schuman Day on May 9th 2012 for instance
- 3. See for example Ullrich, Hanns, Harmonizing Patent Law: The Untamable Union Patent (March 22, 2012). HARMONISATION OF EUROPEAN IP LAW: FROM EUROPEAN RULES TO BELGIAN LAW AND PRACTICE, M.-Chr. Janssens, G. Van Overwalle, eds.,Brussels (Bruylant) 2012; Max Planck Institute for Intellectual Property & Competition Law Research Paper No. 12-03, available at SSRN.
- 4. See for instance FFII's press release on British Telecom's position or Nokia's official position stated before the British government.
- 5. For further information on the dangers of software patents, you can refer to the synthesis published by April on the topic (in French).
- 6. See the questions raised that were never answered.