General mobilisation against the return of software patents in Europe
Paris, September 3rd, 2012. Press release.
In the next few days, the legal affairs (JURI) Committee of the European Parliament will discuss on the next actions regarding the project for a unitary patent. Behind what looks like a technical text lies a crucial issue: who decides on what is patentable and what is not.
As software patents are coming back in international news with the Apple/Samsung case, we need to ensure that such aberrations cannot happen in Europe. April calls for a general mobilisation to contact all MEPs, so that the European Parliament finally tackles the issue of the software patentability.
The threat of software patents
The recent patent wars in the United States, such as Apple against Samsung1 underline the threat posed by software patents: by letting companies monopolize ideas, US lawmakers allow a few monopolistic players to control the whole market2.
"Software patent are a real scourge for companies and software developers", testifies Gérald Sédrati-Dinet, April's patent advisor. "They do not contribute to innovation whatsoever, but prevent us from developing new products while exposing us to ever increasing legal uncertainty."
For all of those reasons, European law prohibits software patents, a stance that the European Parliament took again in 2003 and 2005. Despite this, the European Patent Office (EPO) has been trying for years to legalize software patents, even though they represent a grave threat to the software industry, free and proprietary software companies alike.
"Between 2001 and 2012, projects have changed names and shapes, but the issues remain the same", adds Lionel Allorge, April's President. "The EPO keeps on granting software patents, irrespective of the European Convention on Patents that clearly states that computer programs are not patentable. In 2005, at the time of rejection of software patents by the European Parliament, we had called for a democratic control of the EPO. It is time to end the job."
The unitary patent must talk of software patents
While it is the most important issue for companies, for developers and for innovation 3, these deviations from patentability are not even addressed in the proposed regulation on the unitary patent. Instead, the power to legislate and control the law on patentability would be left to a few specialists, without any democratic control or even a possibility to go before an independent court.
"The European lawmakers is hiding its head in the sand if it believes that a new patent title could favour innovation without first clarifying the definition of what is patentable and what is not", explains Frédéric Couchet, April's executive director."Ignoring the issue is even more dangerous given that in the current context, in which voices were raised to demand that safeguards be put into place, in order to prevent the patent system from destroying software innovation and the freedom to code".
April calls for everyone to get involved and contact MEPs in order to inform them about those issues and to ask them to put some democratic checks and balances on the patent system.
How to act?
April has put into place a few campaigning tools to inform and to raise MEPs' awareness. Everything is available on http://call.unitary-patent.eu. There, you will find documents in order to learn more, and on how to contact MEPs by email or phone, in order to ask them to get involved !
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.
For more information, you may go to the following website: http://www.april.org/, contact us by phone at +33 178 769 280 or through our contact form.
Frédéric Couchet, Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org +33 660 688 931
Jeanne Tadeusz, Public Affairs Officer, email@example.com +33 1 78 76 92 82
Gérald Sédrati-Dinet, Advisor on Patents, firstname.lastname@example.org +33 6 60 56 36 45
- 1. For a complete analysis of the judgement, see for instance the Groklaw article.
- 2. For more information on the threat of software patent, see April's synthesis on the subject (in French).
- 3. In April 2001 already, Richard Stallman told the magazine Transfer : "Software patents pose the greatest danger to our freedom because they will soon prevent us from doing our job. We can overcome all the other difficulties by working hard."