European Software Patent Horror Gallery

Database and Samples
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A database of the monopolies on programming problems, which the European Patent Office has granted against the letter and spirit of the existing laws, and about which it is unsufficiently informing the public, delivering only chunks of graphical data hidden behind input masks. The FFII software patent workgroup is trying to single out the software patents, make them better accessible and show their effects on software development.

*European Software Patent Statistics:
This project aims to create tabular listings and statistics of the patents on programming tasks for the universal computer which the European Patent Office has been granting against the letter and spirit of the written law for the last few years. For reasons explained below, it is difficult to find out the precise number, but it seems the EPO must have granted at least 20-30,000 software patents.
*European Software Patents: Comprehensive Documentation:
*European Software Patents: Assorted Examples:
We came across the following impressive examples at first reading through our tabular listings of software patents. They were almost randomly chosen and thus approximately represent the technicity and inventivity standards of the European Patent Office. If anything distinguishes them from other patents it is the relative ease with which they can be understood at first sight by a fairly large public.
*Software Patents in Action:
Collection of news stories and case studies showing how the granting, licensing and litigation of patents is affecting players in the software field.
A patent description consists in
  • claims
  • detailed description

The claims say what you are not allowed to do. Each claim defines one class of prohibited objects. The description helps to interpret the meaning of the claims. It is supposed to provide sufficient instructions to enable the person skilled in the art to reimplement the "invention" without engaging in further inventive activity. However, EPO software patent descriptions generally fail to provide a reference implementation, and the hard and part is usually left to the programmer. Thus even from the point of view of enablement doubt could be casted on the validity of most EPO software patents.

Patent descriptions and claims use a lot of strange talk about "allocation a block of space for a variable in a memory device" etc. This may just serve to make the "invention" look "technical", but also to prepare lines of retreat for possible litigation. In any case, a less legally interested reader will have to learn to treat it as noise.

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