Position on software patents

Software patents allow the appropriation of ideas and block the development of software by others than a few multinational corporations In accordance with various international treaties, software is covered by copyright. It allows the author of software to decide how his work will be used and disseminated. It is thanks to copyright licenses that the GPL allows anyone to use, study, copy, modify and redistribute free software.

However, in recent decades, a handful of players want software to be also governed by patent law. The latter would give to the holder of a patent the power to prevent anyone from writing or using any other program that uses the same features, the same formats or the same algorithms.

But the benefits of the patent applied to software have never been proved economically. Worse, in a field like software where innovations are cumulative and incremental, that is to say where each innovation is based on those that preceded it, we can prove that investment in R&D are hampered by patents.

Considering that a computing idea may be the only ownership of a software patent holder, an artificial scarcity is created While, on the contrary, a basic principle of free software is to mutually enrich the pool of knowledge, allowing everyone to access it freely.

Patent software and free software are irreconcilable. Applied to the field of software, the patent is a model of the industrial past which tries to consider, in terms of ownership, mechanisms that are nothing else than mathematical formulas and other abstractions, which could very well be implemented in the human brain rather than by a computer. While free software, recognizing the added value created by the contribution of each, offers a model of collective intelligence attuned to the potential offered by the information revolution.

Thus April, in line with its mission of defending and promoting free software, has always opposed the attempts to legalize software patents in Europe. If this legislative opposition to software patents so far proved victorious, patent offices in Europe nevertheless continue to issue such patents, in contradiction with the letter and spirit of law in Europe. So it is important to remain vigilant to block any new attempt and to campaign to stop the illegitimate practices of patent offices.