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Dutch Parliament Withdraws Support for Software Patents
Friday, July 02 2004 @ 08:55 AM EDT

The Dutch parliament is making news. It has just withdrawn its vote for the Directive on Software Patents. It's a proof-of-concept vote, you might say, the first time such a move has been taken in the history of the EU, demonstrating that other countries are free to do the same, as we reported on June 22. Here is part of the FFI press release.

****************************
PRESS RELEASE FFII


01/07/04: Dutch Parliament forces Minister Brinkhorst to withdraw support for software patents directive


Today, July the 1st, the Dutch Parliament has decided to direct Minister Brinkhorst and Secretary of State van Gennip (Economic Affairs) to withdraw the Dutch vote in support of the Council of Ministers' text for the Directive on Software Patents. This is the first time in the history of the EU that such a course of action has been undertaken.

The idea of allowing patents on software has been strongly criticized among SMEs, scientists and consumer organisations. They inhibit investments in Research and Development and contribute to higher prices. Commentators also fear the rise of a "lawyers paradise" in Europe such as is found in the USA, where programmers are constantly threatened by lawsuits.

This act represents an incisive criticism of the European Council of Ministers' attempts to introduce broad patentability of software. Minister Brinkhorst, acting on behalf of the Netherlands, endorsed the
Council's current proposal, which not only reiterated the terms of the Council's strongly criticized first proposal, but went even further, directly rebuffing the clear stance assumed by the EU Parliament, which voted to add numerous amendments which made clear how the category of logical algorithms would be treated.

The European Parliament's version asserted that patents would only be allowed for industrial inventions (e.g. washing machines) and would not be made possible for pure software. All these adaptations were removed in the Council of Ministers' controversial version.

Earlier, Brinkhorst described the Council proposal to the Dutch Parliament as a compromise with the EP. In recent legislative debates,Van Gennip was forced to admit that this was incorrect information, and
attributed it to "an error in the word processor."

The Dutch Parliament apparently didn't buy this explanation and today she rendered an historic and groundbreaking decision, calling upon Minister Brinkhorst and van Gennip to withdraw the Netherland's
supporting vote in the European Council and convert it to an abstention. This measure is possible because at the present moment there is only a "political agreement" and the "formal vote" can only take place after the contested text has been translated into the 20 European Languages. An emergency brake move in the procedure such as this has never been exercised before.

With this decision, the Dutch Parliament demonstrates the active interest her public holds in the debate over software patents, and the recognition and appreciation for the adaptations introduced by the
European Parliament.

Dieter Van Uytvanck, spokesman of FFII Netherlands, stresses the importance of this decision:

"This political signal reaches much further than just The Netherlands. We hope that other European countries that also have their doubts about the proposal of the Council will also withdraw their support, so that the current proposal no longer has a majority. The historic precedent is there now."


  


Dutch Parliament Withdraws Support for Software Patents | 206 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Corrections here
Authored by: Ares_Man on Friday, July 02 2004 @ 09:10 AM EDT
So PJ can find them

---
----
Heck, no. I won't SCO!

[ Reply to This | # ]

Trolls and Astroturfers here, please
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, July 02 2004 @ 09:12 AM EDT
So everyone can ignore them.

[ Reply to This | # ]

OT and links
Authored by: overshoot on Friday, July 02 2004 @ 09:21 AM EDT
Keep it here.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Good heavens - sanity ?!?
Authored by: cheros on Friday, July 02 2004 @ 09:23 AM EDT
I'm astonished that the Dutch are busy recovering their reputation for being
pretty direct in language and action (to the point of being blunt ;-).

Joking aside, it's an encouraging decision. There are evidently some pockets of
sanity left. Having just seen what Novell has quietly been up to I think we're
in for an interesting autumn.

[OT] Oh, by the way, if you want a laugh I can recommend
Novell's "Lord of the Net" (Real video format) at
<http://tinyurl.com/2e8e9>

It could do with some editing (a bit slow) but it's got
quite good moments ;-)

= Ch =

[ Reply to This | # ]

Dutch Parliament Withdraws Support for Software Patents
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, July 02 2004 @ 09:26 AM EDT
So, first the EU parliament and now the NL parliament listen to their people and
vote for common sense.

What a shame certain countries - notably my own (UK) - have persistently blocked
any move to make the EU democratically accountable, so that the EU parliament's
original vote could have carried the weight due to an elected parliament.

</minirant>

[ Reply to This | # ]

Dutch Parliament Withdraws Support for Software Patents
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, July 02 2004 @ 09:27 AM EDT
> Van Gennip was forced to admit that this was incorrect
> information, and attributed it to "an error in the word
> processor."

I.e. scrivener's error. Taking cues from SCO?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Political Moves
Authored by: Observer on Friday, July 02 2004 @ 09:28 AM EDT
Sounds like there was a lot of confusion (including one "word processing error") about what exactly the various representatives were actually voting on. It's not surprising that they would withdraw their support if they discovered that the proposition had changed significantly after they had voted.

I sure hope this motivates other countries to seriously reconsider their votes...

---
The Observer

[ Reply to This | # ]

Dutch Parliament Withdraws Support for Software Patents
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, July 02 2004 @ 10:05 AM EDT
In recent legislative debates,Van Gennip was forced to admit that this
was incorrect information, and
attributed it to "an error in the word processor."

They must be using M$ Word. Apparently, it's programmed to change
text against software patents. Would it be the automatic spelling
correction :D

Anyways, three cheers for our Dutch parliament for showing some
sense!

They are not all stupid after all...

Michiel, a Dutch guy

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • hear,hear - Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, July 03 2004 @ 06:30 AM EDT
Dutch Parliament Withdraws Support for Software Patents
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, July 02 2004 @ 10:05 AM EDT
As a dutchmen (an idiot who forgot his account as well though... ) i'm actually
proud of this decision. I supported the FFII actions by signing their petition
and raising awarenes of this issue within the political party i'm member of. Not
that my party needed the extra awarenes though as they are allready F/OSS fans.

Hopefully other countries pick this issue up and act upon it. Groklaw is at
least doing alot of good work on this part and shows it's next course after the
SCO debacle i guess.. taking up all the other legal issues against the F/OSS
community an disect them meticoulously.

Greetz.. Walther

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft wins in US, not yet in EU
Authored by: clark_kent on Friday, July 02 2004 @ 10:11 AM EDT

I am glad the United States can not impose it's winning take all attitude in
the
EU, at least on this decision of software patents. At least with the Dutch.

I am a native-born American citizen, so I have a right to say what I want about
my country. There are people in this coutry that want to make money, not matter
the cost. People like Darryl McBribe and Steve (give it in the back door)
Ballmer like to make money on things they do not create. They work on the
administrative side of things and bend the rules of commonwealth to their own
benefit without returning value to the resources they take from.

This country has had a history of being a prostitute when the potential money
was good to get, but "justice" is served on the "little"
guy. When I say the little guy, I am talking about the people who do things
because the believe in it with their heart, not just their lust for money, at
the exspense of others. There
is apparently a level in the social structure of the US where the law doesn't
touch you.

It is my hope that the right choices of the EU will shame the bad choices of
the
United States and show that we have lowered our standards of ethics and
increased our
doubts that a true democratic process can ever be applied to computer
technology
in the United States. Do we believe in a true free market system? Or are we
satisfied with a exclusive market system, a system that limits choice?

Normally, if Microsoft and others like them were not around, I would be in
support of software patents. But I am not going to give a company others like
it
who has the power to heavily influence the market, and influences that market
solely to the benefit of themselves any more power to kill my products in a
court of law. I just won't have it. I will not support software patents until I
see a body of law willing to run the course, and prosecute with heavy
influence,
a convicted monopolist and break the will of power of that monopolist. And I
won't do it UNTIL I see results. And the result I want to see is better
competition in the stores. I am sure there are people in this world, just like
Steve Ballmer does with MS Windows, that are willing to promote Linux and other
platforms in the
marketplace. However, when mostly everyone follows the rules of engagement and
laws of the
land, and you have one or two that don't and get away with it, all the imposing
those laws on others to repress them, you have a broken system, a broken
market.
And then there is a misplacement of trust. I want to see a BALANCE of power. Is
that not what our Constitution is about?

I am not a person to be prostituted. I am a small person that deserves respect.
Respect me Microsoft. US government, enable me to impose my power of choice on
Microsoft. And you do that not by settling, but by going and running the full
gammet of the case, and upholding the law. And you failed to do that,
Department
of Justice. Let us
hope that the EU does many times better. Because maybe I want a choice in the
rules of engagement of the battle. And maybe the EU will stand more for truth,
justice, and (what used to be) the American (apple pie) Way, more than the
United States itself.

Funny what the Netherlands is able to do within the EU that Massachusetts can
not do in the US.

[ Reply to This | # ]

I'm in two minds
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, July 02 2004 @ 11:39 AM EDT
I like the idea of preventing MS (or anyone) using trivial patents to harm
competition.

But, what if I create a (truly) innovative piece of software. Yes, its rare, but
it can happen.

Are you saying that software engineering is so vastly different from other
engineering, that I *cannot* get protection?

And that Microsoft can then just steal it?

Why should I bother innovating* at all?

---------
*True innovation is vastly different to just programming. If you can't see the
difference, you're not experienced enough, OK ;)

[ Reply to This | # ]

Dutch Parliament Withdraws Support for Software Patents
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, July 02 2004 @ 12:02 PM EDT
Sorry but I just can't agree with this stance.

If you accept that a novel mechanical device can be patented then a novel
software idea must be patentable also. Innovation can come from two sources ,
firstly the opensurce community but even here code is still protected by
copyright which is still a form of protection for intellectual capital.
Secondly the commercial community will develop software if they see an
opportunity and sell a product and surely they are also elegible for the
protection of the law and relying on copyright does not give anywhere near the
same level of protection.

Fundamentally I can't see any difference between the creation of a mechanical
device ( washing machine ) and the creation of a algorithm which soles the
ravelling salesman problem as long as they both satisfy the same tests of
originality currently required for mechanical devices

[ Reply to This | # ]

Dutch Parliament Withdraws Support for Software Patents
Authored by: ujay on Friday, July 02 2004 @ 12:35 PM EDT
The Dutch vote has been turned from an Affirmative to an Abstention. I don't
know what overall effect this will have. Are abstentions counted as a No vote,
or ignored, allowing for the count of yes/no votes to rule the day?

This, while lauded in the press and on anti-patent sites as a good change, to me
seems more that the Dutch are just ducking the issue. The original stance was
unpopular (you think?), so rather than look at the issue, and make a decision,
they simply decline to make any stance.

Such cowardice does not work in our interests. Unless the individual countries
look at the issue from all angles, and make a clear and informed decision, then
the multinationals and monopolies who are pushing the issue solely for the sake
of their own bottom lines will win the day.

Note to the Dutch Parliament: If you don't make a stand, then you stand for
nothing.



---
Windows comes from a box. Linux comes from a community.

[ Reply to This | # ]

That damned paperclip...
Authored by: shingebis on Friday, July 02 2004 @ 03:14 PM EDT

That "word processor error" comment has already been thoroughly jumped upon, but it had to be done.

Clippy... er, clicky

[ Reply to This | # ]

Where is the line drawn?
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, July 02 2004 @ 05:48 PM EDT
I'm a bit confused on the issue of patents... What's 'good' and what's 'bad'?

Let me relate some personal history - long ago I was employed by a large
corporation, in their research lab. I developed a novel way of incorporating an
epoxy compound into a building material which made the material much stronger
and more corrosion resistant. For this I received a US Patent.

Years later I was workng in another corporation's research lab and one of my
co-workers used a well known statistical method (discriminant analysis) to solve
a particular prediction problem. Nothing new about the methodology - just a new
application. He received a patent for a machine (a PC) which implemented the
method (this was a few years ago; nowadays I presume he could patent the
application).

So my patent was for something tangible, while his was for software. So is that
the essential difference here? My patent was a novel application of known
materials, his was a novel application of known algorithms. I'm just looking
for explanations here...

P.S. Neither of these 'inventions' turned out to be very useful - neither is in
use today. So it's OK to say that both are cr** :-).

[ Reply to This | # ]

Dutch Parliament Withdraws Support for Software Patents
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, July 03 2004 @ 03:49 AM EDT
People shouldn't forget that for many deligates the bigger issue here has little
to do with open source. A democratically elected body has had its political
balls ripped off by an appointed council.

Who controls the EU? There was a lot of public outcry to create the stance of
the European Parliament. The executive reversed and undid much of that work.

Dutch withdrawal underlies that there is a problem with this proceedure that
should be discussed for the European Union's sake.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Patents are bad for the economy
Authored by: globularity on Saturday, July 03 2004 @ 04:37 AM EDT
About time some politicians showed some guts, I guess they didn't like being
scammed.

I have said this before regarding why patents are bad (diversion from
production) for the economy and why software patents are worse.

In an ideal situation a patent application would be sent to the patent office
who whould then search for prior art, this has a computational cost of Ologn
with n growing in proportion to the amount of prior art. The inventor pays this
computational cost. Next comes the the cost to the users, assuming the users
play it by the book and search to ensure they don't infringe on any current
patents, they each bear a cost of Ologn x number of patentable ideas in their
product, with software this could run into hundreds for a complex piece. Next
comes the incidental costs to the user, each component found to be infringing
will need to be licensed or worked around and the license terms of a competitor
may be far from favourable. All these costs do nothing to improve any product
they are purely parasitic.

Next comes the incidental costs from opportunists, I think one company recently
was sueing intel for $500M claiming they infringed on their clock multiplying
scheme, funny the patent was applied for around the time intel starting using
clock multipliers and I know of only 2 ways to clock multiply and both of them
are obvious. naturally this company doesn't produce chips!

I have read a few arguements which go along the lines of "shouldnt someone
be rewarded for inventing something?"

In an ideal world people would search the patent records for good ideas, in this
world of litigation you would be stupid to so both for time and legal reasons a
large portion of patent infringments would be from independently invented
components. Why should an inventor get anything for something they didn't
invent? and conversely why should an inventor pay another inventor to use their
own invention.

I used to be a fan of patents but experience has taught me they are extemely
counter productive and getting more so as the quantity issued increases along
with a vast increase in prior art and system complexity which raises search
costs. they might have worked once but they are rapidly approaching thier use by
date, globalisation is raising the search complexity even more. Judging by the
amount of shoddy patents issued the search complexity has has exceeded the
patent offices capacity and yet the end users with considerably more onerous
search complexity are expected to comply.


My A$0.02

Mark

[ Reply to This | # ]

Any software developer here who claims that he "Invented" some completely new software?
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, July 03 2004 @ 05:03 AM EDT
One of the reader commented that he is programming in 20
years, but would never state that he "invented" something
really original ever in his life.

I can fully concure with him. I amprogramming since I was
16 and I am 37 now. I had plenty of great ideas, but never
claim that they were "inventions" in the true sense.

So, I would like to ask any software developers here to
comment on this: Did you ever really "INVENT" something in
software development?

[ Reply to This | # ]

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