24 September 2008 will be the fifth anniversary of the first reading in the European parliament of the highly amended and ultimately ill-fated EC directive on computer-implemented inventions. The directive, as regular IPKat readers will know, was originally designed to codify the practice that was already in place at the European patent office so that any discrepancies between EPO practice and the application of national laws throughout the EU member states could be minimised. After a concerted effort by anti-patent lobbyists, resulting in widespread confusion and misinformation about what the directive was supposed to achieve, the directive was scrapped in 2005, largely due to being scuppered by numerous conflicting and nonsensical amendments. European patent office practice, of course, went on as normal.
Marking this dubious anniversary, the grandly-titled Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) has announced that 24 September 2008 will be known as "World day against software patents". On stopsoftwarepatents.org, they would like us all to consider the following:
"The issue of software patents is a global one, and several governments and patent offices around the world continue to grant software & business method patents on a daily basis; they are pushing for legal codification of the practice, such as currently in New Zealand and India, and via the misappropriation of Free Trade Agreement instruments;The IPKat is, as readers might suspect, highly sceptical about the real motives and aims of this particular anti-patent lobby. If they had their way, we would see many worthwhile inventions fail to get any realistic level of protection outside the limited range of copyright. Any reform of the system to address the real underlying problem of how to improve patent quality to minimise the number of 'bad' patents that get granted (and most of them are undoubtedly in the US, which has its own particular examination issues) will, the IPKat suspects, never be enough for the FFII. Merpel would like to controversially point out that the ideological basis of the anti-patent lobbyists seem to have a lot in common with other single issue pressure groups like anti-globalisationists and man-made global warming alarmists; nothing the rest of us can do will ever be enough for them.
Previous initiatives as the Noepatents.org petition (approx. 400 000) at the EU level are outdated (notably on the issues of the central EU patent court) and not open for signatures anymore.
Companies still view software patents as assets [IPKat comment: well, what else would they be?]. They have yet to understand that software patents should also be considered liabilities, especially if they are in the hands of trolls [IPKat comment: define troll? IBM? Microsoft? Google? Nathan Myhrvold?].
Time is on our side as litigation gets spread wide: Markets learn the hard way that you may not leave reform to patent professionals [IPKat comment: so we should put reform in the hands of people who know nothing about patent law instead?]. Patent litigation is becoming wide spread in key markets such as the financial sector, and will be more wide spread in the software sector in the forthcoming years due to the number of applications pending [IPKat comment: so what is the link between pendency and litigation? I think we should be told];
The United States needs a larger coalition of business and civil society against software patents [IPKat comment: why?]
The lobby gap makes Congress and Senate, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) and the Supreme Court susceptible to lobbying from patent industries, holders and patent professionals. American software developers have been intimidated by the patent establishment and should make themselves heard [IPKat comment: this sounds like a classic paranoid conspiracy theory line].
Companies affected by software patent litigation have been lobbying for reform, but their advocacy for "quality" and "lower damages" aims at symptoms rather than the roots of the problem [IPKat comment: totally untrue; increased quality of examination is the key to avoiding bad patents, in whatever field they may be. The problem of excessive damages is peculiar to the US, and should be addressed].
For these reasons,
We declare the 24 September as the World Day Against Software Patents, in commemoration of the European Parliament First Reading in 2003 with amendments stopping the harmful patenting of software, guaranteeing that software programmers and businesses can safely benefit from the fruits of their work under copyright law.
A Global Petition will be launched which asks to stop software patents, with some localised versions of the petition for specific regions, such as New Zealand, India, United States and Europe. The public will be invited to comment on the draft between the 1st and the 23rd September."