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<title>Open Letter to the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft (FhG) because of software patents - July 6th, 2004</title>
<h1>Open Letter to the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft (FhG)</h1>
<h3>July 6th, 2004</h3>
<div class="letter">
<p>Dear Professor Bullinger,</p>
"Research should be able to earn its money also on the market!" - say
politicians so we, the Free Software Foundation Europe, understand when
researchers use creative ways to get a better income. But even
researchers should take care not to bite the hand that feeds them. This
danger is real, especially with the actual software patent discussion:
The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is well known for its patent of the MP3
audio-compression standard. Another compression procedure, named Ogg
Vorbis, is considered to be of higher technological value by experts. If
software patents should indeed be introduced in Europe, the Ogg Vorbis
developers could be confronted with license claims at will by the
Fraunhofer IIS<a name="ref1" href="#fn1"><sup>1</sup></a>, although they took
care not to infringe the MP3 patent. The FhG might be able to get rid of an
unpleasant competitor or would at least better its income substantially. We
will avoid a discussion of the ethical questions related to such a behaviour.
However, it certainly is not very useful from the economical point of view if
a good idea blocks an even better one: this is also shown by Dr. Daniel
Probst of the chair of Economy and Economical Theory at the University
of Mannheim. Dr. Probst stated in a hearing of the German parliament
regarding software patents in June 2001<a name="ref2"
"The part of SME (small and medium-sized enterprises) would sink and a
concentrational process would begin. Based on network effects, a few
large enterprises would gain a dominant place on the market. As far as
allowed by competition regulations, they would agree on cross-licensing
their patent portfolios and would hinder market entry of new companies
with blocking patents. The research intensity in the branch would
stagnate or fall." There would also be a significant decrease of Free
Software solutions.
Personally I regret every single point of the above. There are many more
deficiencies, some of them have been shown to the new German president,
Professor K�hler, in an open letter in June<a name="ref3"
href="#fn3"><sup>3</sup></a>. A particular important point for you as head of
the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft should certainly be the quote "The part of SME
would sink...", especially regarding the fact that, according to the German
government<a name="ref4" href="#fn4"><sup>4</sup></a>, the FhG is taking 60
percent of its research orders from SMEs.
Another point to take into consideration would be that big companies
might move the research to the eastern parts of the European Union,
because they can find in Poland and other newly entered EU countries
perfectly competent software developers at a fraction of actual costs.
For Europe's greatest research society in the field of "information and
communication technology", this could mean not only the disappearance of
their project partners but, even worse, the dying of the companies which
FhG wanted to live of. "Sawdust is falling since quite a certain time,
the splintering of the branch is imminent."
<p>Kind regards</p>
<div align="left">
<a href="/about/greve/">Georg Greve</a><br />
Free Software Foundation Europe<br />
<a href=""></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>
<timestamp>$Date$ $Author$</timestamp>
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