|News of 2003||Nokia & Co 03/11/07||AT&T 03/11/21||EICTA 03/11/27||UK Libdem Youth demands strong position against software patents||bswk1216||Intel 03/12/11||WIPO 03/11/04|
Dear Minister and Commissioners,
Re: Proposed Directive on the Patentability of Computer-Implemented Inventions (CIIs)
As chief executive officers of five of Europe's leading telecommunications and consumer electronics companies, we write to express our deepest concerns about the amendments recently adopted by the European Parliament to the Commission's proposed Directive on Patentability of Computer-Implemented Inventions (CIIs), commonly known as the Software Patents Directive.
It may be worth noting that the abbreviation "CII" is not used in the original directive title. The corporate patent lawyer who wrote this (Tim Frain from Nokia?) seems very eager to use every appropriate and inappropriate opportunity to launch "CII" as an abbreviation for replacing the colloquial term "software patents". It is clear that this is a patent lawyer wording, not a wording of CEOs of telecommunication companies. More on the campaign around the term "computer-implemented inventions", which was started at the EPO in May 2000, is found in the documentation What is a Computer-Implemented Invention?.
The R&D investements of the undersingned companies are concentrated on the development and deployment of telecommunication machinery and solutions. About 5-10% of this money is spent on patent acuisition. The development of new computing ideas, as expressed in the patents owned by these companies, accounts for far less than that, probably below 1% of their expenses. Patents are moreover only one of several forms of formal and informal ways in which these companies protect their investments.
Details about the patent portfolio and typical software patents of the companies in question can be found at
This may be the case for the pharma industry. As far as the subject matter of the directive is concerned, it contradicts all common knowledge and evidence gathered from economic studies so far.
The European Commission indeed claimed that these were the aims of its directive proposal, but upon a closer look, the proposal achieved none of these aims. Instead it achieved other unnamed aims, such as unlimited patentability of "computer-implemented business methods" and absolute priority of such patents over any interoperability considerations. The patent departments of the companies undersigned under this letter were major supporters of these real aims. One should judge the tree by its fruits.
By "status quo in Europe based on current best practise", the bosses are referring to a practise of the European Patent Office which is not significantly different from that of the USPTO. If there was anything that protected small businesses in Europe, then it was the legal uncertainty which results from the fact that this "best practise" is at odds with the written law.
The stated aim of the directive proposal advocated by the European Commission and the undersigned CEOs was precisely to remove this "legal uncertainty" which has been "protecting the interests of small software developers and SMEs generally".
This bold statement contradicts all common knowledge about the economics of software development in the telecom field as in other fields.
Anyone who wants to compete with one of the undersigned companies would have to incur huge costs. Imitating and reimplementing software itself is an extremely costly process, especially when, as is regularly the case, the software is available only in binary form and copyright has to be observed.
This unreasoned assertion contradicts the common sense of software developpers, including about more than 500 employees of the undersigned companies who have signed the NoEPatents Petition. From conversations with managers at some of the undersigned companies (and from testimonies such as the one of Robert Barr from Cisco, see above) we know that patents are widely perceived to be a brake on innovation even at big telcomunication and electronics companies.
This again is a well-documented lie.
While the patent system may be a corner stone of a viable pharma industry, no serious economic study has ever claimed that it is beneficial, let alone indispensable, for the information society. Rather, the information society needs a stable, predictable and reliable reassurance that everyone is free to create and publish his own copyrighted works and to interoperate with other systems. The Parliament's amendments provide precisely this reassurance.
In other words the bosses of 5 large companies are calling on administration officials to take legislative decisions against the European Patent Convention and against the EU's only democratically elected legislative body.
The current legal framework for CIIs in Europe is serving all stakeholders well. We do not want to see any sudden or dramatic reduction in the scope of what is patentable. If a solution cannot be found which codifies the status quo, it would be better to have no directive at all than a directive which does untold damage to European industry.
These concluding remarks show that the support of the signators for the professed goals of "harmonisation" and "clarification" are indeed of minor importance.
The CEOs of the five companies have allowed themselves to be abused by their patent departments. These patent departments have been producing thousands of broad and trivial patents on methods of organisation and calculation every year, and they want a directive that makes these patents enforcable. If they do not get such a directive, they prefer to have an unclear situation (where their patents can at least continue to be collected for corporate accounting and tax evasion).
Some of the undersigned CEOs like to present themselves as leaders with a scientific mind and and a sense of social responsibility. Quoting this letter may "deal a severe, perhaps fatal, blow" to that aspiration.