EU Software Patents Defeated! (for now)

· by Steve · Read in about 3 min · (610 Words)

This is the best news I’ve had in ages. The Legal Affairs Committee of the EP has demanded that the Computer Implemented Inventions Directive be completely rewritten. Not only that, they voted 19-2 in favour of this. The EC, which increasingly seems to listen only to lobbyists highly funded by the likes of patent arms-dealers (global multinational IT companies - you know who you are) and those who seek to make a killing out of a horrifically abusable patent law (read lawyers and the patent office) simply cannot ignore this. Finally, it looks like the interests of the majority of software developers will be secured, instead of pandering to large companies with legal armies who are running out of real things to sell and seek to sell completely imaginary things instead.

Don’t get me wrong - I believe in strong IP, the majority of my worth is in it after all. What I can’t stomach is a system which encourages people to register processes which are obvious to even a small child, or imaginary processes that they haven’t bothered to implement yet but wish to fleece the first person who does. Software is inherently iterative - and to move forware we need to refine just as much, or if not more, than invent new ideas. Do you think your computer works as well as it should? Of course not - we should be making it better. But we can’t do that by looking over our shoulders all the time wondering if someone will jump on us with a childish cry of ‘I thought of that!’. Maybe you did, but if you didn’t implement it well, take a hike. In software, ideas are cheap and easy - software is about engineering a great solution from the nugget of an interesting idea. I can pull ideas out of my a** all day - the difference is I don’t have the money to register all of them and then prosecute those who actually implement them. But that’s exactly what the big software patent holders in the US are doing.

The other problem with all patent systems is that they effectively promote a ‘might makes right’ system, since registering patents is expensive and time consuming so the little guy is always at a disadvantage. And don’t tell me a lone inventor can register a single patent and win against the big guys - maybe that’s true with simple inventions like a door closer, but with software, it’s so complex and combinational that the big comany is bound to find an obscure patent they registered that they can say applies to some other element of your software system. So then you either choose a ‘trade’ if you can (ie getting nothing), or it becomes a legal battle, and guess who has the money to fight it the longest. Yeah. Sound fair to you?

It’s also a well known fact that having a thriving small business community benefits domestic economies much more than attracting small numbers of large multinationals - because the large multinationals shift money to wherever it’s cheapest, have armies of people adept at minimising taxation, and can up-stakes and move the majority of their work to India (or wherever) far easier than anyone else. And governments are bending over backwards to satisfy them above domestic companies? I guess they must just offer better ‘incentives’, eh?

In the end, the new EU members helped save the day here, and we should thank them for that. They have the most to lose from the ‘little guys’ being marginalised, and I think they joined in the nick of time. Poland, way to make an entrance. 😀