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Anti-software patent groups urge SMEs for support

By Chris Williams. Published: 23rd Jun 2005, 20:05:54 | Permalink | Printable

Time to find your MEP

no patents logoThe movement against software patents is calling on small to medium enterprises (SMEs) to lobby against the second reading of the software patent directive in July by the European Parliament.

According to those who oppose the directive, software patents are used to protect trivial things such as preview windows for images and showing related search results in a web page if an online customer picks out a product she likes - all patented in the EU.

Anti-software patent group, The Economic Majority says that whilst many SMEs see software patents as a threat, EU law makers are being allegedly tricked into believing otherwise by particular lobby groups who are supported by larger corporations yet pretending to represent the SME community. The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure claims, "Some large corporations want a powerful weapon against small but innovative competitors, or against open source software."

The proposed legislation to introduce US style patenting of software code in the EU will likely affect RISC OS software or open source applications that our platform is becoming increasingly reliant on. Those in favour of software patenting say the new policies will harmonise legislation across the continent and provide "strong patent protection of computer implemented inventions".

The FFII is asking everyone to participate in a web strike and contact MEPs to convince them to defeat the software patent law.

Links

Lobby groups go all out as EU patent deadline looms from The Register

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Discussion

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It is probably time to scrap patents totally rather than expand them. Patenting has gone wrong - especially in the US where the patent ideal is turned on its head to allow big companies to stamp even harder on individual innovation and money alone decides what is 'patentable'. Anyone want to support a new idea whereby patents cannot be sold and can only be owned by the individual inventor?

 is a RISC OS Userjc on 24/6/05 10:18AM
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jc: I don't entirely agree with that. Patents serve a very useful purpose, but one that's been twisted and abused far too much. Reform is needed, not scrapping. Not being able to sell them would seem a backward step, too, although there need to be safeguards against the dubious practice of buying up patents to stop anyone using them and competing with you.

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 24/6/05 12:28PM
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What useful purpose do software patents serve? How in practice is innovation rewarded and encouraged by people having artificial monopolies on ideas and mathematics? The "let's be pragmatic and advocate reform" position is somewhat naive in the face of various lobbying interests who will tell you that they'll consider reform but only after pushing through their pet legislation. And the "surely this rewards small and innovative companies" position (also known as the "perhaps I can make a buck or two with my nifty ideas" position) is naive in the extreme. If software patents had been recognised in 1978, Acorn wouldn't have survived as far as 1988, let alone 1998. And Acorn did have a nifty idea or two.

 is a RISC OS Userguestx on 24/6/05 2:11PM
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Before debating software patents (and I was really thinking in terms of patents in general, which is a little off-topic, and I didn't make clear), you have to answer the question "What is the fundamental difference between a hardware and a software solution?", and why. I personally don't differentiate between them much, as I see it from the point of view of the effort involved in creating something, whatever format the end result is in.

The fact that some ludicrous patents have been granted to certain companies in certain countries isn't proof that the idea is bad, just that it's been implemented badly and corrupted. If this particular legislation doesn't address those issues then this particular legislation should be rejected.

Finally, what's wrong with being able to make a buck or two with your nifty ideas? Better you do than someone else does.

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 24/6/05 3:08PM
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SimonC: I approve of the idea of patents. It doesn't work because the whole process has been subverted. With software the problem is even worse and the subversion process - big US corporations and the US patent office - will not reform. Though tongue-in-cheek my idea about patents for individuals and something that cannot be sold is about the least reform that might work. Alternatively sue the US patent office for not checking for prior art and sue Microsoft for ... ... anything. ;-) That's the alternative. In the meantime educating your MEP might not be a bad idea.

 is a RISC OS Userjc on 24/6/05 3:20PM
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As the registered holder of patent US8324244/1988 which states, "an electronic representation of a news page with comments by readers below" I here by serve notice of patent infringment proceedings against www.drobe.co.uk in the US District court of San Mateo, for damages not exceeding $10,000,000. A reasonable and non descrimatory license will be required for future use, at the rate of $10 per page and $1 per comment.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 24/6/05 3:39PM
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My father, who holds several patents to his name, always said he made more money from being an expert witness in patent disputes that from his own patents. Nice work if you can get it:-)

 is a RISC OS UserEddie on 24/6/05 3:41PM
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"The fact that some ludicrous patents have been granted to certain companies in certain countries isn't proof that the idea is bad"

Yes it is! It shows that patents mix very badly with disciplines which are built on pure ideas. The argument that "other disciplines have patents so you'll have to get used to it" and the leading question "what is the fundamental difference between a hardware and a software solution?" make the flawed assumption that the patent model is both fair and universally applicable - something that (if you're going to debate patents in general) isn't going to get much agreement from a large part of the third world.

Rather than have an unjust model foisted on software developers because "there might be something in this patenting business", perhaps we should be advocating the removal of patent controls on other disciplines - disallowing various kinds of hardware patents could be an interesting start.

 is a RISC OS Userguestx on 26/6/05 10:06AM
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guestx: Because it's been corrupted shows that the fundamental idea is bad? What nonsense! At the end of the day I can't see how it can be anything other than fair for the originator of a good idea to be the one who gets the reward for it, and I'm amazed that anyone questions that, other than unimaginative freeloaders who want to make a living off the back of other peoples' work.

As I was saying before, I admit the system can, and has, gone wrong before. That happens in all areas of the legal system, but should we therefore get rid of laws because sometimes they can be abused or exploited? The whole system just needs better safeguards and checks (Brazil has some into the news recently with what I think is a pretty sensible safeguard).

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 26/6/05 1:11PM
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Isn't this article a bit OT? There doesn't seem much specific relevance to RISC OS. Surely political stuff such as this is best left on the Register, not Drobe?

 is a RISC OS Useradamr on 27/6/05 3:06PM
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a) It's still stuff that affects RISC OS.

b) Even if it *was* irrelevant, which it isn't, then I don't see the problem with including it anyway. (See [link] for a blog post I did about this.)

 is a RISC OS Usermoss on 27/6/05 11:00PM
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moss: "It's still stuff that affects RISC OS" Yes, but there's lots of things like that - drobe hasn't done an article on the US file-sharing court ruling, but that "affects RISC OS".

"I don't see the problem with including it anyway" It's not a problem, as such - but you have to draw the line somewhere, or else drobe would include all the news in the whole world, about every subject!

 is a RISC OS Useradamr on 28/6/05 9:30AM
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True, but when you've got a site that you run in your free time, part of it is going to reflect your own personal interests. I suspect that's partly what this article is doing.

 is a RISC OS Usermoss on 28/6/05 3:47PM
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"part of it is going to reflect your own personal interests"

If you mean that this article does *not* affect the RISC OS developer community, then you are sadly incorrect.

Software patents will affect every computing platform if they are passed. 'Free', as well as commercial software developers will be effected.

 is a RISC OS Userpiemmm on 29/6/05 12:10PM
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If you're a big money-rich software company then you have no worries. If you depend on developers producing stuff with minimal or no income and cannot afford to contest unjust patent claims then you have every reason to be wary. This matter concerns RISC OS more than most.

 is a RISC OS Userjc on 29/6/05 5:15PM
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"If you mean that this article does not affect the RISC OS developer community, then you are sadly incorrect. "

Read what I said above. "It's still stuff that affects RISC OS".

 is a RISC OS Usermoss on 29/6/05 5:44PM
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(So yes, fair enough, the other point is irrelevant. I just try and crowbar it in anywhere I can, to be honest ;))

 is a RISC OS Usermoss on 29/6/05 5:49PM
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"Because it's been corrupted shows that the fundamental idea is bad? What nonsense!"

But we aren't in a position to point at high (and not particularly relevant) ideals whilst people get sued out of business.

"At the end of the day I can't see how it can be anything other than fair for the originator of a good idea to be the one who gets the reward for it"

The problem is that in computing - a ideas-intensive discipline - there's a lot of contention over those new and magic ideas that some lazy/ignorant/overworked/pressured (delete according to viewpoint) patent clerk thinks is worth dignifying with a monopoly. Thus, several people can independently come up with a "good idea" but only one will be able to get the "reward" (whilst charging the others who'd justifiably feel pretty unfairly treated).

You'd think that with jobs being transported to India/China, the politicians would want to improve the efficiency of the economy rather than introducing a huge legal overhead. Extending patentability in this way is truly an archaic solution borrowed from an outdated economic rule-book, perhaps valid in a time when knowledge was hoarded, but now lazily misapplied to a discipline where the cross-pollenation of ideas is what moves everything forward.

 is a RISC OS Userguestx on 3/7/05 7:59PM
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All rather academic now, since the thing has been thrown out.

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 9/7/05 1:46PM
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