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German Politician Says Germany Will Vote Against Software Patents; IT Leaders in France Ask Chirac To Do the Same
Thursday, May 13 2004 @ 12:51 PM EDT

Heise has the news: A German politician told demonstrators that Germany will vote against the software patent directive of the Council of the European Union. This is a turn-around, and according to Mathias, who brought this story to my attention, it is the direct result of grassroots lobbying efforts. Germany must never adopt the US system, Elmar Hucko, Ministerial Director in the Federal Department of Justice, said, to cheers from demonstrators. Others at the demonstration pointed out the danger such patents pose to FOSS software.

Here is the computer translation of that part of what Hucko said:

"'We want American conditions in no case in Europe', avowed Hucko with a view of the patenting in the USA. A patent must for a fair 'reward for a seriously meant invention' remain and may not not as strategy to the 'Niederknueppeln of the competition' be abused."

Here is the German, so you can improve the translation:

"'Wir wollen auf keinen Fall amerikanische Verhältnisse in Europa', erklärte Hucko mit einem Blick auf das Patentwesen in den USA. Ein Patent müsse weiter eine 'Belohnung für eine ernst gemeinte Erfindung' bleiben und dürfe nicht als Strategie zum 'Niederknüppeln der Konkurrenz' missbraucht werden."

Groklaw's Scriptwriter offers a human translation:

"'Under no circumstances do we want American procedures in Europe,' Hucko vowed with regard to the US patent process. A patent must be 'a fair reward for a bona fide invention and not abused as a strategy to bludgeon competitors.'"

In France a letter was sent to the President from leaders in the IT industry there, asking him to vote against patents too, when it comes to the vote on May 17 and 18. They call business methods patents on software corporate racketeering and say they don't want to copy US methods:

"The 26 professionals warned the president in an open letter that if adopted, this text 'would destroy many value-added jobs in France, would force Europe into a subservient position in matters of software technologies, and would encourage anti-competitive practices'.

"Jean-Paul Smets, director of the consulting firm Nexedi, and one of the signatories, told Reuters: 'We request that France defend what the president has always said [he would], that is innovation...'"

Here is the French for that section:

"S'il est adopté, ce texte 'détruirait de nombreux emplois à valeur ajoutée en France, renforcerait la vassalisation de l'Europe en matière de technologies logicielles et favoriserait les pratiques anti-concurrentielles', ont averti 26 professionnels dans une lettre ouverte au président de la République.

"'Nous demandons que la France défende ce que le président a toujours dit, c'est-à-dire l'innovation . . .'"

The head of Mandrakesoft called such patents as are proposed corporate racketeering, and he mentioned the Sony-JPEG and the SCO-Linux-IBM cases as examples of misusing the legal structure in the US for anti-competitive purposes:

"[They] fear that there will ensue an avalanche of lawsuits, similar to what is happening at present against several large American software companies.

"Those lawsuits are most often initiated by businesses that have nothing to do with research and development.

"'Corporate Racketeering'

"Jacques Le Marois, president of Mandrakesoft, one of the popular versions of the Linux operating system, declared: 'In the USA, more and more enterprises are developing portfolios of software patents which they later use to muscle other companies. Clearly Europe is facing the risk of that happening here'."

Here is the French for that part:

"Dans cette hypothèse, les éditeurs craignent une avalanche de procès sur le modèle de ceux qui frappent actuellement plusieurs grandes entreprises informatiques américaines.

"Ces procès sont le plus souvent initiés par des sociétés n'ayant aucun lien avec la recherche et développement.

"'RACKET DES INDUSTRIELS'

"'Aux Etats-Unis, de plus en plus de sociétés ont développé des portefeuilles de brevets logiciels qui leur servent ensuite à racketter les industriels. C'est clairement ce qui risque de se passer en Europe', a déclaré Jacques Le Marois, président de Mandrakesoft, éditeur d'une des versions les populaires du système d'exploitation Linux."

Nobody is arguing that software doesn't need protection, said Jean-Paul Figer, Director of R & D for Cap Gemini, but copyright protection is "quite sufficient":

"'Copyright is better suited to protect intellectual works. This proposed project is as if we patented mathematical formulas and people were forbidden to use them under the pretext that they are discoveries', he added."

Here is the French for that part:

"'Personne ne conteste qu'il faille protéger le logiciel, mais la protection actuelle par le copyright est largement suffisante', a expliqué Jean-Paul Figer, directeur de l'innovation chez Cap Gemini.

"'Le copyright est beaucoup mieux adapté à la protection des oeuvres de l'esprit. Ce projet, c'est comme si on brevetait les formules mathématiques et qu'on empêchait les gens de les utiliser sous prétexte que c'est une découverte', a-t-il ajouté."

The Heise report mentions that there have been demonstrations against the patents proposal in Munich, Lisbon and Vienna. Others are planned in Linz, Copenhagen and Madrid.

Mandrakesoft put out a statement, in which it calls a spade a spade:

"Flash: EU Software Patent Legislation: a real threat for Linux and Open Source

"Mandrakesoft would like to alert all users and the software community at large about a recent clandestine attack by proprietary interest through covert adoption of EU Software Patent Legislation.

"In direct contravention of the recent vote by the European Parliament to curtail Software Patents, the Irish Presidency of the European Union has surreptitiously reinstated unlimited software patent language into the text of a statement to be adopted by the European Council of Ministers on Monday May, 17th, without further debate!

"The new text, if adopted, will extend Software Patents to every piece of software, including computer programs, data structures, and process descriptions. This will directly harm most software firms and all Open Source projects unable to pay patent licensing tribute, and amounts to an appropriation of the public domain by proprietary interests. A direct beneficiary will be a new class of pure patent companies without any real business or contribution to employment, which will use the threat of litigation to extort payments.

"Of note is that a sponsor of the Irish Presidency is Microsoft, currently building a large patent portfolio. If the Software Patent text is adopted, Microsoft may use this patent portfolio against Linux and other Open Source projects.

"Mandrakesoft would like to forewarn and mobilize its users and the software community about the very real threat of such a law. Please contact the media, your political representatives, and your government, and urge them to vote against unlimited Software Patents and to revert to the previous European Parliament position.

"For further information please see the following links:

http://swpat.ffii.org/journal/04/cons0507/index.en.html
http://kwiki.ffii.org/SwpatcninoEn

"Mandrakesoft Online Team."


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