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<title>Open letter to Prof. Köhler on software patents - May 31st, 2004</title>
<center><h1>Software Patents in Europe</h1>
[<a href="/activities/swpat/swpat.html">Introduction</a> | <a
href="/activities/swpat/background.html">Background</a> | <a
href="/activities/swpat/status.html">Status</a> | <a
href="/activities/swpat/documents.html">Further Reading</a> ]
<br />
<center> Open Letter
[<a href="/activities/swpat/letter-20040510.html">2004-05-10</a>]
[<a href="/activities/swpat/letter-20040706.html">2004-07-06</a>]
[<a href="/activities/swpat/letter-20040802.html">2004-08-02</a>]
[<a href="/activities/swpat/letter-20040906.html">2004-09-06</a>]
[<a href="/activities/swpat/letter-20041004.html">2004-10-04</a>]
[<a href="/activities/swpat/letter-20041101.html">2004-11-01</a>]
[<a href="/activities/swpat/letter-20041206.html">2004-12-06</a>]
[<a href="/activities/swpat/letter-20050103.html">2005-01-03</a>]
[<a href="/activities/swpat/letter-20050207.html">2005-02-07</a>]
[<a href="/activities/swpat/letter-20050307.html">2005-03-07</a>]
[<a href="/activities/swpat/letter-20050405.html">2005-04-05</a>]
[<a href="/activities/swpat/letter-20050502.html">2005-05-02</a>]
[<a href="/activities/swpat/letter-20050606.html">2005-06-06</a>]
<h2>Open letter to Prof. Köhler on software patents</h2>
<h3>May 31st, 2004</h3>
<p>Dear Professor Köhler,</p>
"Germany needs to become a country of ideas,"
you said after your election. You did not ask
to patent these ideas. Rightly so, in our
opinion. This liberal attitude offers the only
way to reach the Lisbon aim of states and
heads of government becoming the "most
competitive knowledge-based economy" by 2010.
But in fact Europe - with massive support from
Germany is undertaking the precise opposite
to what should be done. In mid-May, the Council
of Ministers affirmed that it would put through
a bill permitting the the sueing of someone for
royalties from software patents. This is
contrary to the recommendations of thirty European professors of computer
science<a name="ref1" href="#fn1"><sup>1</sup></a>; the German
Monopolkommission (an organisation which writes
regular reports for the Federal Government on the
state of competition)<a name="ref2" href="#fn2"><sup>2</sup></a>;
MIT<a name="ref3" href="#fn3"><sup>3</sup></a>; the Boston
University School of Law<a name="ref4" href="#fn4"><sup>4</sup></a>;
and experts in politics, business and economics<a name="ref5" href="#fn5"><sup>5</sup></a>.
Software patents do not patent software programs
but the idea behind (the source code is protected
by copyright), and they hinder software developers
from entering prohibited creative areas when they
are late to patent themselves. This is why they
should be called software-idea patents.
I would like to demonstrate the damage which is
caused to the economy, the state and society with
three examples. Had patents on ideas existed in
the eighteenth century, Joseph Haydn might have
patented "a piece of music consisting of four
movements including singing and melody". The
consequence: Haydn might have requested any amount
of licence fees for any of Mozart's forty-one
Today matters are similar. Internet telephone is
expected to quadruple its turnover until 2007: a
real growth market indeed. In the United States
there are 880 patents dealing with IP telephony.
A vast prohibited creative area is developing
which will hinder new solutions.
This would be as if Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor
of the World Wide Web, had wanted to patent his
unique idea in 1989: had he done so, the World
Wide Web would be open only to a small,
financially-strong, club of chosen people.
Of course we agree with you that society must
reward the performance of a software developer
adequately, otherwise the stimulus to make his
abilities available to society is missing. But
we have a strong copyright law to protect
software. Additional software patents are more
likely to be an impediment.
<p>With the best wishes for your coming presidency</p>
<div align="left">
<a href="/about/people/greve/">Georg Greve</a><br />
Free Software Foundation Europe<br />
<a href="/index.html"></a>
<hr />
<a name="fn1" href="#ref1"><sup>1</sup></a>
<a href=""></a>
<a name="fn2" href="#ref2"><sup>2</sup></a>
<a href=""></a>
<a name="fn3" href="#ref3"><sup>3</sup></a>
<a href=""></a>
<a name="fn4" href="#ref4"><sup>4</sup></a>
<a href=""></a>
<a name="fn5" href="#ref5"><sup>5</sup></a>
<a href=""></a>
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