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Wednesday, 03 September 2008 01:42

Countdown: 3 weeks until World Day Against Software Patents

September 24 is probably not going to be the best day to work at a patent office, considering that geeks the world over are being called upon to gather outside and protest against software patents. But do we need, and what else will be happening on, the World Day Against Software Patents?

September 24th 2008 will the fifth anniversary of the European Parliament first reading of the European Commission's controversial directive proposals with regard to software patents. Those with long memories might recall that it came complete with amendments to stop the harmful progression of trivial software patents.

Of course, the lobbyists did their thing quickly enough and a couple of years later the directive became a dead duck at the second European Parliament reading. Software programmers and IT businesses would not be protected from patent trolls after all.

PatentFrei, a coalition of 1000 German software businesses which stand united against software patents, explains that the European copyright laws, which should guarantee the copyright holder security of an appropriate reimbursement, is nothing more than an empty shell.

"The creativity of software developers has been replaced by the creativity of patent lawyers with the writing of broad patent claims. Politicians are asked today more than ever to bring back a patent system which has gone off course, and to stop granting patents on software" PatentFrei argues.

It isn't just Europe that has a software patents problem, far from it. The Indian Patent Office looks like allowing software patents to pass, no matter how loudly the Indian Parliament insists it isn't.

Anwar Ummer Arackal, CEO of OpenFirms, a consulting company for some of the leading health care organizations and companies in India, says "Patents in the field of software hinders the accessibility to technology of our government health care clients who depend mainly on large scale deployment of embedded devices for functioning. This situation would lead to monopoly and anti competitive strategies."

What about the US Patent Office and its apparent willingness to grant the most ridiculous of patents, and exactly what does this day of world action hope to achieve? Find out on page 2...


Ah yes, let's look at the US Patent Office which seems happy to grant ridiculous, and often seemingly speculative, patent applications for IT concepts.

Who could forget the recent Microsoft patent for Page up, Page Down navigation for example?

There have even been successful patent applications for ‘rights for the transfer of e-mails with attachments’ and even the ‘download of a device driver from the Internet.’

Yet despite these permissive patent office rulings, no US legislator has ever actually approved the practise. Although Congress and Senate, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and the Supreme Court are all highly susceptible to lobbying from patent industries and patent professionals.

Now the Stop Software Patents campaign, a coalition of more than 80 software companies, associations and developers, has declared that there should be a World Day Against Software Patents to highlight the ongoing problems.

The World Day Against Software Patents will also "provide volunteers with the opportunity to express the growing concerns of users, businesses and developers" the organisers say, adding that they "expect 24 hours of activities across the globe."

This will include volunteers gathering in front of patent offices to inform the general public of the problems underlying software patenting as well as the issuing of a global petition demanding that software patents worldwide should cease.

Benjamin Henrion, initiator of the StopSoftwarePatents coalition effort, tells us that the aim behind StopSoftwarePatents is to gather a worldwide coalition of businesses and civil society in order to get laws which clearly exempt software from patentable subject matter.

"This is the best solution for getting rid of patent trolls and uncontrollable legal risks generated by software patents. The day the software industry forms a clear front against software patents will be the beginning of the end for the patent trolls." Henrion insists.

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