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  4. <title>FSFE - Software Patents in Europe</title>
  5. <meta content="Information about software patents - a problem for companies, developers and users." name="description" />
  6. <meta content="computer implemented inventions software patent law copyright ideas computer program compatibility and interoperability companies software developers users non-free Free Software legal uncertainty costs pay smartphones" />
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  8. <body>
  9. <p id="category"><a href="/work.html">Our Work</a></p>
  10. <h1>Software Patents in Europe</h1>
  11. <div id="introduction">
  12. <p>
  13. We are working towards a world where software does <em>what software
  14. users want it to do</em>. For this, software users must be able to
  15. participate in the development and distribution of the software.
  16. Software patents block this goal by adding <em>legal and financial
  17. risks</em> to software development and distribution and by giving the
  18. patent holders legal power to completely prohibit software developers
  19. from using the patented ideas.
  20. </p>
  21. </div>
  22. <p>
  23. To understand how patents work, it is important to realise that
  24. they have almost nothing in common with copyright. While
  25. copyright is granted on the the work of an author, such as a
  26. computer program, patents are granted on ideas that could be
  27. used inside a computer program. So when thinking of patents,
  28. think of "symphony combining wind and string instruments" and
  29. not "Beethoven's 2nd symphony."
  30. </p>
  31. <h2 id="about">A problem for everybody</h2>
  32. <ul>
  33. <li>Software patents add legal risks, and therefore costs, to software
  34. development.</li>
  35. <li>They specifically inhibit the development of useful software by
  36. blocking compatibility and interoperability.</li>
  37. <li>Patents are incompatible with software because software is
  38. so complex - too many ideas are used for it to be practical to
  39. count them and check them against existing patents</li>
  40. </ul>
  41. <p><a href="">Software
  42. patents are a problem for everybody </a>, no matter if big or small
  43. companies, individual software developers, users, non-free or Free Software.
  44. </p>
  45. <ul>
  46. <li>The <em>companies</em> have to spend more money for their legal department, to
  47. register patents, to negotiate patent crosslicensing, and to defend
  48. themselves against patent claims. While for some time software patents were
  49. a nice tool for big companies to prevent newcomers from competing with them,
  50. they also have to face companies who only sue others on software patents,
  51. and never do any software development by themselves. Against them, any
  52. software company can only loose.</li>
  53. <li>For <em>software developers</em> software patents mean legal
  54. uncertainty: whenever you start programming you might violate patent law. You will
  55. never be able to find out if you violate a patent. Even if you read a
  56. software patent you might not realise it covers what you are currently
  57. implementing. With patents, we have to pay money to register them. On the
  58. other hand with copyright, everyone of us, even those who just program as a
  59. hobby, can write a program, and afterwards it will fall under copyright
  60. without any additional costs. In fact, software patents can dispossess us
  61. as they can prevent from using the rights we get from copyright, e.g. to
  62. distribute the program to others. </li>
  63. <li><em>Users</em> would have to pay for all those costs. Some people
  64. estimate that the patent costs for smartphones are about 20% of the actual
  65. price payed by the customer. </li>
  66. </ul>
  67. <h2 id="status">The current status</h2>
  68. <p> The <a
  69. href=""> European Patent Convention states that software is not patentable</a>.
  70. But laws are always interpreted by courts, and in this case interpretations
  71. of the law differ. So the European Patents Office (EPO) grants software
  72. patents by declaring them as "computer implemented inventions". We will
  73. continue to work with our <a href="/about/fsfnetwork.html">sister
  74. organisations </a>, our <a href="">associated
  75. organisation FFII</a>, and others to inform people about the dangers of
  76. software patents. We will explain the legislative that they have to make
  77. the laws more precise so that the patent offices have to act as intended.
  78. We will continue to get rid of that problem. </p>
  79. <p>In the US our sister organisation is working to <a
  80. href="">build
  81. awareness to the harm caused by software patents</a> and in New Zealand
  82. the government understood the problem and <a
  83. href="">recommended
  84. in April 2010 to include computer programs amongst inventions that may not be
  85. patented</a>. </p>
  86. <h2 id="actions">Selected FSFE actions</h2>
  87. <!-- the following artciles should be tagged and added as related articles -->
  88. <!--
  89. <p>From 2004 to 2005 we wrote open letters about software patents addressed
  90. to <a href="/campaigns/swpat/letter-20040510.html">all citizens of Europe</a>,
  91. <a href="/campaigns/swpat/letter-20040531.en.html">the German President Prof.
  92. Köhler</a>, <a href="/campaigns/swpat/letter-20040706.en.html">Fraunhofer
  93. Gesellschaft (FhG)</a>,
  94. <a href="/campaigns/swpat/letter-20040802.en.html">IBM</a>, <a
  95. href="/campaigns/swpat/letter-20040906.en.html">the Dutch prime
  96. minister</a>, <a href="/campaigns/swpat/letter-20041004.en.html">Allianz
  97. Group</a>, <a href="/campaigns/swpat/letter-20041101.en.html">Mr
  98. Barroso</a>, <a href="/campaigns/swpat/letter-20041206.en.html">President of
  99. the European electricity industry Hans Haider</a>,
  100. <a href="/campaigns/swpat/letter-20050103.en.html">Mr LEE Jong-wook</a>, <a
  101. href="/campaigns/swpat/letter-20050207.en.html">Nout Wellink is the Chairman
  102. of the Board of Directors and President of the International Bank
  103. Settlements</a>, <a
  104. href="/campaigns/swpat/letter-20050307.en.html">Catherine Parmentier Chief
  105. Executive Officer of EUROCITIES</a>, <a
  106. href="/campaigns/swpat/letter-20050405.en.html">Mr Provoost president of
  107. EICTA</a>,
  108. <a href="/campaigns/swpat/letter-20050502.en.html">Charlie McCreevy</a>, and
  109. <a href="/campaigns/swpat/letter-20050606.en.html">Josep Borrell Fontelles,
  110. President of the European Parliament</a>.</p>
  111. -->
  112. <!-- the following things should be removed and the tagged news added. -->
  113. <ul>
  114. <li><p><strong><a href="/news/2013/news-20130612-01.html">German Parliament
  115. tells government to strictly limit patents on software</a></strong> On
  116. Friday the 7th of June the German Parliament decided upon a joint motion to
  117. limit software patents (see English translation by BIKT). The Parliament
  118. urges the German Government to take steps to limit the granting of patents
  119. on computer programs. Software should exclusively be covered by copyright,
  120. and the rights of the copyright holders should not be devalued by third
  121. parties' software patents. The only exception where patents should be
  122. allowed are computer programs which replace a mechanical or electromagnetic
  123. component. In addition the Parliament made clear that governmental actions
  124. related to patents must never interfere with the legality of distributing
  125. Free Software.</p></li>
  126. <li><p><strong><a href="/campaigns/swpat/current/unitary-patent.html">EU: the
  127. unitary patent</a></strong></p></li>
  128. <li><p><strong><a href="/campaigns/swpat/letter-20101222.html">Letter to German
  129. competition authorities - 2010-12-22</a></strong> Free Software Foundation Europe's
  130. concerns regarding the acquisition of Novell's patents by CPTN Holdings</p></li>
  131. <li><p><strong><a href="/campaigns/ipred2/ipred2.html"> 2007-present: IPRED2
  132. - The Criminalisation Directive</a></strong> A proposal has been made
  133. by the European Commission to criminalise and increase the penalties and
  134. invasive investigative measures for patents, copyrights, trademarks, and
  135. all other laws lumped together by the term "<a
  136. href="/activities/wipo/iprip.html">Intellectual Property</a>". It looks like
  137. patents will now be excluded from this directive, but the legislative
  138. process is still ongoing and there are many other harmful aspects of this
  139. directive that must be corrected.</p></li>
  140. <li><p><strong><a href="/campaigns/gplv3/gplv3.html">2006-2007: Version 3 of
  141. the GNU GPL</a></strong>: During the 18 month public consultation for
  142. the drafting of GPLv3, FSFE worked to assist community participation.
  143. Among other benefits, GPLv3 offers better protection for free software
  144. developers against patent litigation. Our licences can only solve a small
  145. part of the harm of software patents, but they can make free software
  146. development easy in some ways.</p></li>
  147. <li><p><strong><a href="">
  148. 2006-July-12th: Participation in EC hearing</a>:</strong> Ciaran
  149. O'Riordan represented and made a statement on behalf of FSFE at this
  150. hearing organised by the European Commission on the future of the patent
  151. system.</p></li>
  152. <li><p><strong><a href="/campaigns/swpat/fsfe-patstrat-response.html">
  153. 2006-March-31st: Response submitted to EC patent
  154. questionnaire</a></strong>: FSFE has submitted its response to the
  155. European Commission's questionnaire titled "On the patent system in
  156. Europe".</p></li>
  157. <li><p><strong>2005-July-6th: Software Patent Directive Dropped</strong>:
  158. After years of struggle, the European Parliament finally rejected the
  159. software patent directive with 648 of 680 votes.</p></li>
  160. <li><p><strong><a href="/campaigns/swpat/second-reading-bullets.html">
  161. 2005-July-1st: Bullet Points on the Second Reading</a></strong>: One
  162. week before the second reading vote by the European Parliament, FSFE sent a
  163. simplified explanation of the core areas of confusion. This was delivered
  164. in six languages which were produced on short notice by the FSFE
  165. translation team. </p></li>
  166. <li><p><strong><a href="/campaigns/swpat/memorandum.html"> 2005-June-28th:
  167. Karlsruhe Memorandum</a></strong>: The Free Software Foundation Europe
  168. has published, on June 28th 2005, the Karlsruhe Memorandum against software
  169. patents. This memorandum collected more than 200 signatures at this year's
  170. GNU/LinuxTag conference in Karlsruhe. Citing scientific evidence, the text
  171. argues that software patents in Europe will hurt jobs and innovation. Among
  172. the supporters are leaders of some of Europe's biggest trade union groups.
  173. All MEPs received a copy of this.</p></li>
  174. </ul>
  175. <h2 id="subpages">Navigation</h2>
  176. <ul>
  177. <li>
  178. <h3><a href="/campaigns/swpat/background.html">Basic information</a></h3>
  179. <p>
  180. What are patents, what are software patents, and why would anyone want them?
  181. </p>
  182. </li>
  183. <li>
  184. <h3><a href="/campaigns/swpat/documents.html">Background documents</a></h3>
  185. <p>
  186. How do software patents influence very different areas of society and economy?
  187. </p>
  188. </li>
  189. <li>
  190. <h3><a
  191. href="">End Software Patents</a></h3>
  192. <p>
  193. Goal of this website is to build an information resource for campaigns against software patents worldwide.
  194. </p>
  195. </li>
  196. <li>
  197. <h3><a
  198. href="">Software patents presentations</a></h3>
  199. <p>
  200. List of transcripts, such as Richard Stallman's 2004 talk: <a
  201. href="">The Dangers
  202. of Software Patents</a>
  203. </p>
  204. </li>
  205. </ul>
  206. </body>
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