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EU Vote on Software Patents

11 September 2003

The vote is planned for the 22nd Sept after having been postponed once. Read my letter below for a brief overview as to why they are bad or check out http://swpat.ffii.org/ for the in depth treatment.

To my elected members of the European Parliment :

As you are probably aware the European Parliment has recently postponed its vote on the issue of computer software patentability until the next plenary meeting of the European Parliament during the week beginning 22 September.

As an British IT Consultant who has extensively conducted business in the USA, where software and business patents have existed for some time, I urge you to reject the directive for the following resasons:


  • Software patents in the USA have been used to hinder competition by blocking obvious software applications, such as Amazon,com suing Barnes And Noble for implementing 'One-click Shopping'

  • Business Process patents have been used to blocking others from entering a market such as in the case of Netflix and their DVD rental business (see http://msl1.mit.edu/furdlog/docs/nytimes/2003-06-26_nytimes_netflix_patent.pdf)

  • Software patents prevent reverse engineering and clean room implementations of software. This would stymie attempts at creating interoperable products - Crucial if SMEs are to compete with dominant software producers.

  • The cost of compliance with software patents is exorbitant (patent searches, lawyers) and blocks market entry to small and medium sized enterprises as they are caught in a web of patents thrown up by well established players. Only a handful of dominant players will be able to survive, by cross-licensing there extensive patent portfolio, a means not available to the small player because of the logistical and legal costs.

  • Peer review, necessary for security and robustness of algorithms, and innovative research are hindered and new business opportunities diminshed.

  • Established market players stockpile speculative and overly broad software patents with the intent to attack companies engaged in bringing new technologies to market.

  • Countries with overly stringent software patent laws are at a competitive disadvantage compared with countries where the free flow of ideas is not impeded.

Many other IT professionals, Economists, Business Owners and Scientists conccur that this directive would damage Europe's competitive advantage in the World Marketplace. More detailed information on the issue is available at http://swpat.ffii.org/

Thank you for considering this important issue


Yours sincerely,


Dave Goodwin
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