[Fsf-friends] EU Software patents directive crushed in the flat new world

Ramanraj K ramanraj.k@gmail.com
Fri Jul 8 21:54:59 IST 2005

V. Sasi Kumar wrote:

 >On Wed, 2005-07-06 at 23:42 +0530, Ramanraj K wrote
 (Well, the credit goes to Sivasankar :)
 >>Great news! The EU software patents bill was crushed by a huge margin
 >The news item says:
 >Dr John Collins, a partner at patent attorney Marks & Clerk said the
 >decision was not a victory for opponents of software patents.
 >"Today's outcome is a continuation of inconsistency and uncertainty with
 >regard to software patenting across the EU," he said.
 >"Software will continue to be patented in Europe as it has been for the
 >last 30 years," said Dr Collins.
 >Does this mean that software can be patented?

No.   In   Europe,  patents  are  governed  by   the  European  Patent
Convention,   as    amended   from   time   to    time   since   1973.

Article 52

Patentable inventions

(1) European  patents shall be  granted for  any inventions  which are
    susceptible  of industrial  application, which  are new  and which
    involve an inventive step.

(2) The following  in particular shall  not be regarded  as inventions
    within the meaning of paragraph 1:

(a) discoveries, scientific theories and mathematical methods;

(b) aesthetic creations;

(c) schemes, rules and  methods for  performing mental  acts,  playing
    games or doing business, and programs for computers;

(d) presentations of information.

(3) The provisions  of paragraph 2 shall exclude  patentability of the
    subject-matter or activities referred to in that provision only to
    the  extent to  which a  European patent  application  or European
    patent relates to such subject-matter or activities as such.

(4) Methods for  treatment of the human  or animal body  by surgery or
    therapy and  diagnostic methods practised  on the human  or animal
    body shall not be regarded  as inventions which are susceptible of
    industrial  application within  the meaning  of paragraph  1. This
    provision shall not apply to products, in particular substances or
    compositions, for use in any of these methods.

The above  is in accordance with  TRIPS Agreement, and as  we can see,
computer programs are  not patentable in Europe.  If  there are any EU
patents for  software, they are  merely invalid and ultra  vires.  The
whole problem is because a few mega corporations either won't or can't
see the  reasons behind these laws,  and keep lobbying  every where to
introduce patentability for software by hook or crook.

It is illegal and unlawful to patent computer programs under the TRIPS
Agreement, that  came into  force 10 years  ago.  Patents  granted for
software in some  jurisdictions like US or other  select countries are
no longer  valid after the TRIPS  Agreement came into  effect.  If any
signatory  to  the  TRIPS  treaty  has laws  that  allow  patents  for
software,  then   such  nations  are   clearly  in  breach   of  their
international obligations,  and could  be held liable  and answerable.
The  home  for  "software  patents"   is  the  US,  and  some  of  its
corporations that  think this as an  easy device to make  money out of
thin air, have been lobbying in Europe to give legitimacy to "software
patents",  and   this  move  has   been  defeated  recently   with  an
overwhelming majority.

ffii.org leads the battle against  these moves in Europe. Nearly 1,934
companies  with   about  31,488  employees  and   annual  turnover  of
3,258,164,082 EUR, have entrusted  the FFII to defend their interests,
which they define at http://www.economic-majority.com/ as follows:


    Our enterprise is worried about  plans to legalise patents on software
    solutions ("computer-implemented inventions").

    We rely on software copyright. We need  to be sure that we own what we

    We need to be sure that we can publish and distribute our own programs.

    We need to be sure that, as long as we respect the rules of copyright,
    we can run any software on any office or network computer.

    We  urge legislators  to confine  the  patent system  strictly to  the
    limits of applied natural  science. In principle, only knowledge which
    had to  be obtained through  costly experiments with forces  of nature
    should  be  eligible  for  the  broad,  slow  and  expensive  monopoly
    protection which the patent system offers.

Our friend Christian at Code Liberty has called 6th of July 2005, "The
Day  of  Intellectual Independence",  on  which  day, "[t]he  European
Parliament  has dramatically rejected  the software  patent directive,
putting an end to the attempt to impose software patent enforceability
on Europe".

More info on these developments is available at:


Now,  the US  is largely  isolated and  alone on  this  issue.  FAREED
ZAKARIA  has reviewed  the book  titled "THE  WORLD IS  FLAT:  A Brief
History  of  the Twenty-First  Century"  by  Thomas  L.  Friedman  at:

The  reviewer notes  that "China  and India  loom large  in Friedman's
story because they are the  two big countries benefiting most from the
flat world".  He further says:

The ultimate challenge for America  -- and for Americans -- is whether
we are  prepared for  this flat world,  economic and  political. While
hierarchies  are being  eroded  and playing  fields  leveled as  other
countries  and  people  rise   in  importance  and  ambition,  are  we
conducting  ourselves  in  a  way   that  will  succeed  in  this  new
atmosphere? Or will it turn out that, having globalized the world, the
United States had forgotten to globalize itself?

It is  most tragic  that the  US has been  deaf to  what RMS  has been
crusading and  campaigning for  the past many  years.  The  freedom of
people  to use  the digital  medium with  utmost liberty  will largely
determine the very  fate and future of nations. It is  not too late to
make  amends,  and  change  policies  towards  having  sane  laws  and
practices. HTH.


More information about the Fsf-friends mailing list