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FFII invites OpenForumEurope to explain how text patents benefit open source software
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Open Forum Europe is lobbying the European Parliament in the name of "open source companies" in order to make software directly patentable and to ensure that interoperable software may not be written. We invited Graham Taylor of Open Forum to explain. An short dialog followed, in which Taylor presented himself as naively well-believing about the meaning of what he signed and reluctant to repair the damage.
To graham at openforumeurope org

Dear Mr. Taylor,

At

Unice/Eicta/ICC etc 2003/05/22: %(q:Joint Statement of the Industry) for Software Patents
you find news about how your initiative, Open Forum Europe, is providing invaluable help to the community of industrial patent lawyers in their effort to push the European Parliament to legalise program claims, business method patents and restrictions on interoperability.

The signatories of the "Joint Statement", among them you as a representative of the open source software community, are sending their appeal to all members of the European Parliament (MEPs) in an attempt to create the impression that the OSS community or its more reasonable part (i.e. people like you) trust the European Patent Office and want patents to be enforcable against programmers or ISPs who publish an infringing text on their website.

I would find it very interesting to hear you argue in what way the demands which you are advocating could be beneficial to the constituents of your organisation.

Could you perhaps come to the Software Patent Hearing & Conference in/at the European Parliament on May 7.-8. in Brussels and explain your point of view? Which of the panels in the Conference, as proposed so far, do you think would be most suitable?

Yours sincerely

In an answer on Apr 28th, Mr. Taylor declined our invitation and offered a dialogue in writing. We ansered immediately, as below, and have so far not received further mails:

IP has been one way in which suppliers can gain a return on their investment. Software patents are intrinsically no different to any other IT patent and are ONE (but only one) way of protecting IP.

see

Patent Jurisprudence on a Slippery Slope -- the price for dismantling the concept of technical invention

But that's not the central point here.

The potential chaos caused by ill thought through granting of software patents, as in the US is clearly damaging to any small software house (not just OSS) and puts our industry at risk, and needs to be avoided in Europe. So firstly our stance is one of a strong definition on granting of software patents. Indeed we prefer the phrase, software patents will not be granted UNLESS there is clear indication that there is both significant innovation and technical contribution - and making this a real fence to climb.

There is no difference between the US practise and that of the European Patent Office, as far as software is concerned.

Just look at the patents granted by the EPO on the basis of the rules which MEP McCarthy wants to codify:

European Software Patent Horror Gallery

In addition we support the position that if a patent is granted there must be special arrangements made for free access if it forms part of an open standard.

Again the proposal which you endorse achieves the opposite of what you say is your goal: it makes sure that interoperable software can neither be published or used without a license.

So there is the option to say no s/w patents or control them in a tight disciplined manner, as I believe the EU are proposing.

Your belief is wrong, the opposite is true.

See our analysis at

CEC & BSA 2002-02-20: proposal to make all useful ideas patentable
and the tabular comparison of proposal and amendment proposals at
EU Software Patent Directive Amendment Proposals

It would have been a good idea to consult the internal eurolinux list, to which I am cc-ing, before speaking about patent legislation in the name of the opensource community.

We cannot let the impression that "the oss community is split on patents" stand. It must be wiped out forcefully in one way or other. Damage could be turned into benefit.

What would you propose?

Sincerely

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