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Europe should conserve a competitive advantage and prohibit a legal basis
for software patents - September 6th, 2004
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<h1>
Europe should conserve a competitive advantage and prohibit a legal basis
for software patents
</h1>
<h3>September 6th, 2004</h3>
<div class="letter">
<p>
Dear Prime Minister,<br />
Dear Dr. Balkenende,
</p>
<p>
The new Commission of the European Union would like to speed up the
"Lisbon"-Process to make Europe the "most competitive knowledge-based
economy by 2010". This is a reasonable aim which is worthy of support
by European citizens. However, the EU is considering legislation which
will have adverse effects on the software market. We - the Free
Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) - would like to call your attention
to this important issue. With your help it may be possible to avoid
this problem before it gets off the ground in the EU.
</p>
<p>
Software patents are used to hinder competitors software innovation.
This is the sole reason that a virtual waste paper basket is patented,
the incorporation of applications into a website is patented, and or
the ordering of gifts via the internet is patented. These ideas are not
very innovative, but they are necessary to make the whole application
run and be usable by anybody. It is just the same as with a car: To get
access to the real innovations you need to use trivial features such as
a steering wheel.
</p>
<p>
In the last few weeks we have seen what happens to project management
in business and public administration because of a demanding project,
such as in Munich. A member of the city council feared that the project
might infringe a patent - and the project got into trouble for a whole
week, although software giants IBM are interested in managing this
project because of its international prestige. This was paralleled
worldwide, as similar projects are supposedly threatened as well.
</p>
<p>
From now on any introduction of SAP will be in danger. The same way it
might get impossible to implement additional security features to
eliminate a bug in a web server - because there might at any time be
someone who speculates whether the ideas behind the implementation are
"protected" by software patents. For these reasons voices in the US
would like to get rid of the innovation blockade which are "software
patents".
</p>
<p>
30,000 software patents already exist in the EU; this contradicts the
spirit of the present patent law in the EU. Three quarters of software
patents are held by non-European companies. To give software patents a
legal basis may be a decision which would make the EU far less
competitive. That is why we would like to ask the European Council to
revise its agreement on software patents of May 18th. Instead the
Council should decide to make sure innovation can take place and not be
restricted by software patents in the future.
</p>
<p>
During the dutch Presidency of the European Union you have the best
opportunity to initiate this revision. In the interest of Europe you
should not hesitate to make this revision.
</p>
<p>Yours sincerely</p>
<p>
Georg Greve<br />
President<br />
Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE)
</p>
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