2004 December 27th
India's Minister of Industry Kamal Nath has issued an ordinance (a law that doesn't need parliamentary approval) in order to greatly expand the patent system, among other things by legitimating USPTO/EPO-style software patents in India.
2004 December 21st
The Software Patent Directive has been withdrawn from the Agenda of the Council of Agriculture and Fisheries. Poland's Minister of Science and Computerisation, Wlodzimierz Marcinski, firmly requested the item be withdrawn from the agenda. The Agriculture Commissioner expressed regret, but the A-item was deleted and will not now be adopted this year.
2004 December 17th
The agenda for the Environment Council meeting of Monday is already up to its third revision at the time of this writing. Earlier today, it mentioned that the software patents directive would be handled at that meeting. In the afternoon, the software patents directive was removed again from the schedule. The Dutch government apparently didn't want to be accused of misinforming its Parliament again.
2004 December 15th
According to the [http://ue.eu.int/ueDocs/cms_Data/docs/pressData/en/envir/83092.pdf Agenda of the 2632nd Environment Council meeting], the software patent agreement of 18th of May will be adopted as an uncontroversial item (A-item) Monday next week, see also [http:Cons041217En Cons041217En]. Neither the Mertens group yesterday nor the diplomats at Coreper today raised any objections. Several countries made unilateral statements in which they distance themselves from the proposal and point to the European Parliament as the bearer of their hopes.
2004 December 13rd
/Brussels, 14 December 2004 --/ Diplomats of the EU Council will decide on Tuesday and Wednesday whether the Council's Software Patent Agreement of May 2004 will be passed by the upcoming Fishery or Environment Council meetings, the last ones of this year. Contrary to recent information given by the Belgian government, the Dutch Presidency is apparently still trying to push through the text from last May as an A-item, i.e. without discussion and without vote. The published justifications for throwing away all of the European Parliament's substantial amendments range from the [longtime debunked ("TRIPs requires software patents") http://swpat.ffii.de/analysis/trips/index.en.html] to the downright absurd ("politicians must not change established practice").
2004 December 3rd
The Council seems to be working under high pressure to prepare materials in order to adopt the Software Patent Agreement of 2004-05-18 as a Common Position before the end of term of the Dutch Presidency this year.
2004 November 30th
Berlin 30 November
2004 August 25th
Der Staastssekretär im Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Arbeit, Dr. Alfred Tacke, entschuldigt sich in einem Brief an den Bitkom-Vorsitzenden Bernhard Rohleder für die vom BMWA im Juli veranstaltete Umfrage über die Auswirkungen von Softwarepatenten auf die Softwarebranche.
2004 August 24th
In a letter, on 2004-08-24, the french president's technical adviser answers to the Urgent Appeal of FFII.
2004 August 24th
The German State TV Channel ZDF.de is examining a complaint by FFII about news film of July 6th in which journalist Manfred Ahlers had reported about a "summit" of the german patent establishment with the Siemens boss H.v. Pierer and chancellor Schröder as keynote speakers. Ahlers wrongly reported that Schröder had called for software patentability and that "theft of ideas caused billions of euro of damage to the software industry every year", using a interview with a BSA official about the unrelated subject of copyright violations in order to confuse the issues and fabricate a consensus in favor of software patents, in the same way as the BSA-written "explanatory memorandum" of the European Commission's directive proposal attempted this in 2002. The Ahlers report falsely presents FFII as a lobby group of copyright violators campaigning for a right to "freely reuse programs written by others". The suggestive techniques and circumstances make it difficult to assume that this was done by mistake. FFII submitted a formal complaint to ZDF's multi-partisan supervisory body asking for compensatory measures. The director of the body, MP Rupert Polenz, has affirmed receipt of the complaint and forwarded it to the program director (Intendant). A further decision will be taken after receipt of the program director's opinion.
2004 May 27th
The German Liberal Democrats (FDP) have submitted a resolution proposal to the German Federal Parliament (Bundestag) in which they explain in detail why software patents as granted by the European Patent Office are undesirable and incompatible with the written law and how this malpractise should be rectified. The FDP finds that the European Parliament found an "adequate compromise" in its vote of 2003-09-24, and that this compromise deserves the German government's full support, whereas the Council of ministers agreed on a "misguided economic policy decision" last week. The resolution calls on the government to withdraw its support from the Council's decision and to declare support for the European Parliament's vote instead. It is now up to the governing green and socialist groups to supports the FDP's resolution and destabilise or delegitimate the Council's patent-maximalist decision.
2004 May 18th
The Irish presidency has secured political approval for a new draft of the controversial software patents directive in a meeting of the Council of Ministers on Tuesday, 2004-05-18. The draft and accompanying press releases are full of statements of good intentions to avoid patents on software and business methods as such, whereas the provisions in the text assure that such items are without any doubt to be treated as patentable inventions in Europe. The draft owes its majority to a maneuver by the German delegation, which had collected the opposition under its flag, to settle for a bogus amendment in the last minute and take the Poles and Latvians with it. Representatives of the Netherlands, Hungary, Denmark and France apparently acted in breach of promises given to their parliaments or governments.
2004 May 7th
The EU Council of Ministers is demonstrating that the concept of democracy is alien to the EU. This Wednesday, the Irish Presidency and the European Commission managed to secure support for a counter-proposal on the software patents directive, with only a few delegations - including Belgium and Germany - showing resistance. The new text proposes to discard all the amendments from the European Parliament which limit patentability. Instead the lax language of the original Commission proposal is to be reinstated in its entirety, with direct patentability of computer programs, data structures and process descriptions added as icing on the cake. The proposal is now scheduled to be confirmed without discussion at a meeting of ministers on 17-18 May, unless one of the Member States changes its vote. In a remarkable sign of unity in times of imminent elections, members of the European Parliament from all groups across the political spectrum are condemning this blatant disrespect for democracy in Europe.
2004 April 8th
After months of closed back room discussions, the Irish Presidency of the European Union has referred the proposed EU Directive on software patents back up to "political" level. The Irish want members of the Council of Ministers of the member states to agree to drop all objections by May. The Presidency proposed draft text rejects all clarifying amendments made by the European Parliament in September 2003 and instead pushes for direct patentability of computer programs, data structures and process descriptions. A last ditch attempt by the Luxembourg delegation to ensure interoperability with patented standards was rejected. The Patent Department at Nokia is collecting signatures from top company executives for a "Call for Action" in favour of the Presidency text. In the other corner, supporters of the European Parliament's position have arranged conferences to explain the dangers of software patents, and are mobilising for a "net strike" and a rally in Brussels on April 14th under the slogan "No Software Patents -- Power to the Parliament". They are hoping for a repeat of the impact of similar actions in the run-up to September 2003, which helped convince the European Parliament to vote clearly against software patents.
2004 April 2nd
In the Council of Ministers of the European Union, national patent administration officials have, after several months of secret negotiations about the proposed EU software patent directive, have reached the end of several months of secret negotiations about textual questions. The resulting "compromise document" rejects all clarifying amendments made by the European Parliament and instead pushes for direct patentability of computer programs, data structures and process descriptions. A last minute attempt by the Luxemburg delegation to allow interoperation with patented standards was rejected. Many other delegations have expressed reservations about the document, which are inserted as anonymised footnotes. Yet the Irish Council presidency wants the ministers to jointly adopt this text at the "Competitivity Council" meeting on May 17-18.
2004 March 26th
The European Commission's competition procedings against Microsoft have led to a verdict which gives a big boost to Microsoft's monopoly position in the OS market and helps Microsoft expand this position to other markets. While the Commission may have earned substantial revenues for itself by imposing a one-time fine of 1% of Microsoft's liquid cash reserves, the smallprint of the verdict gives Microsoft green light to kill its main competitors in the operating systems market. This smallprint was simultaneously reinforced through backroom deals in the Council's Patent Policy working party, of which copies have been leaked to FFII. Immediately after the announcments the stock value of MSFT rose by 3%.
2004 February 2nd
In its anti-trust procedings against Microsoft, the European Commission has found that Microsoft is trying to extend its desktop monopoly into the market for workgroup servers (file, print, mail and web servers) by keeping secret the communications protocols that enable its desktop and server products to talk to each other. "Without such information, alternative server software would be denied a level playing field, as it would be artificially deprived of the opportunity to compete with Microsoft's products on technical merits alone," the Commission warned in 2001. Yet, the Commission has stopped short of demanding that Microsoft make its protocols freely available. According to an article in the Economist, Microsoft will only be required to license its server-communications protocols to rivals on a "reasonable and non-discriminatory" basis, which means e.g. that free/opensource software projects such as Samba can be excluded, and a look at Microsoft's recently published aggressive licensing program shows that indeed they are. Another arm of the Commission is fighting for the right of Microsoft and other companies to forbid interoperation with any patented standard which they chose to impose by their market power. Bolkestein's Industrial Property Unit has been urging the Council members to remove Art 6a of the European Parliament's Software Patent Directive Proposal. Art 6a demands that the use of a patented technique for mere interoperation purposes should always be royalty-free.
2004 January 30th
The Paris based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, in which the world's wealthier countries are members, has issued a report on problems with the patent system. OECD calls for "closer scrutiny by science, technology and innovation policy makers" of patent regimes, warning that governments "must remain vigilant in ensuring that patenting does not unnecessarily hinder access to knowledge, reduce incentives to disseminate knowledge, or impede follow-on innovation". The report specially names software, business method and gene patents as fields where the efficiency of the patent system seems particularly questionable.
2004 January 29th
In September 2003, the European Parliament had voted to maintain and reinforce the exclusion of software and business methods from patentability. The Council of the Ministers of the European Union, currently presided by Ireland, is now circulating a Working Paper with counter-proposals to the European Parliaments position. In contrast to the European Parliament's version, the Council version allows unlimited patentability and patent enforcability. Under the Council version, "computer-implemented" algorithms and business methods, as have been granted in large numbers by the European Patent Office against the letter and spirit of the written law, are by default patentable inventions. Publication of a description of a patented idea on a web server in formal language constitutes a patent infringment, and use of patented protocols and file formats for the purpose of interoperation is not allowed. This proposal was prepared behind closed doors by the Council's Patent Working Party, a group of patent administrators who run the European Patent Office. The Patent Working Party has been encouraged in its uncompromising pursuit of unlimited patentability by a campaign of letters to top-level politicians, signed by CEOs of some of Europe's largest patenting companies. These letters falsely claim that computer-controlled industrial processes are made unpatentable by the Parliament's amendments and that software innovation is driven by patents. In the context of another directive, the EU Council is currently pressing the EU Parliament to mandate criminal sanctions even for minor cases of patent infringment.
2004 January 29th
Microsoft has just been awarded two patents (US 6,510,177 and US 6,683,980) for a method of packing a high-definition television signal onto a hard drive, internetnews.com reports. The article goes on to quote anonymous experts who praise the methods patented here are basic and advantageous building blocks of any future digital media standards and speculate that Microsoft's "Windows Media 9 technology" will become irresistible if it is the only one that can use these methods. Microsoft has meanwhile published licensing conditions for its protocols which make it clear that they cannot be used by opensource software.
2004 January 28th
CEOs of 5 of the largest patenting companies in Sweden falsely accuse the European Parliament of having voted to make software-controlled industrial production processes (e.g. robots of ABB) unpatentable. Based on this false accusation, they demand support for the position of the European Commission and European Council, which is to legalise 30000 patents on pure software and business methods which have been granted by the European Patent Office in recent years against the letter and spirit of the existing law. The CEOs moreover make it clear that "harmonisation and clarification": they want either a full codification of unlimited patentability according to the EPO doctrines or no directive at all. Similar letters have been signed by prominent industry executives and sent to heads of government. This is the first time that they are directly going public with such a letter. The letter comes after a statement by Sweden's Justice Minister Thomas BodstrÃ¶m in support
2004 January 25th
FFII has filed an opposition at the European Patent Office (EPO) against the Gift-Ordering Patent of Amazon. The FFII is asking the Technical Board of Appeal to revoke the patent and to return a more straightforward understanding of the European Patent Convention, which alone could securely prevent the granting of masses of broad and trivial monopolies on rules of organisation and calculation. This demand of the FFII is backed by a petition which has been signed by numerous politicians, entrepreneurs and organisations.
2004 January 19th
Die Niedersächsische Landesregierung rebelliert gegen EU-Binnenmarktkommissar Frits Bolkesteins Bemühungen um eine Richtlinie zur Entflechtung regionaler Industriekonglomerate und Erleichterung von Übernahmen an der Börse. In einem Schreiben an Kommissionspräsident Prodi und diverse EU-Kommissare wirft die Landesregierung Bolkesteins Apparat ausdrücklich unredliche Argumentationstaktiken vor. Der FFII fühlt sich an Erfahrungen mit dem gleichen Apparat im Zusammenhang mit anderen Richtlinien erinnert.
2004 January 16th
In a response to a parliamentary question in december 2003, Sweden's minister of justice Thomas Bodström endorsed the approach of the European Patent Office and the European Commission on software patents and criticised the European Parliament for amending the directive with the effect of narrowing the scope of patentability and making already-granted patents invalid. Bodström announced that his government will push for reversal of these amendments. His comments provoked applause from the patent movement (also called the "technostructure" in Sweden) and criticism from some software associations and companies.
2004 January 14th
A spokeseman of the European Patent Office has provided official answers of the EPO to questions which MEP Piia-Noora Kauppi submitted to president Kober before his visit to the European Parliament on November 27. The answers are evasive and it is unclear whether Kober himself stands by them.
2004 January 13rd
Parts of the Labour party and electorate of Arlene McCarthy's district are asking to have her replaced. McCarthy responds by pointing to her affiliation with the regional venture capital scene (= patent movement) and claiming merits in bringing special EU funds to her regions.