Free Patents

Protecting Innovation & Competition in the IT Industry


Europe Citizens - Act Now !

Protect Business and Liberty from Software Patents

Although big names such as Oracle, Adobe, etc. had claimed that patents on software are more harmful than useful, the US law system has allowed for a decade the filing of patents for elementary software processes. The 30.000 software patents filed every year are now used to attack and eliminate independant software publishers or free software authors. 

After intensive American lobbying efforts, Japan also introduced software patents. Europe seems to be the next on the list. 

On June 24 and 25 1999 in Paris, France, the European member states of the Munchen convention met and discussed the software patent issue. They have decided to wait for one more year before taking any final decision regarding article 52.2, which says that computer programmes as such are not patentable. And French State Secretary Christian Pierret has stressed the necessity to study the economic impact of software patents on the software industry.

A European Union directive is now being prepared to harmonize and clarify the rules related to software patents, which is of course necessary. The proposed directive is planned to be released during Q3 or Q4 1999 and will be discussed for about one year. The European Commission (DGXV) seems to be pushing for more software patents rather than for more control on trivial software patents with no industrial application such as 96305851.6. And no economic study has been made yet to clarify the impact of software patents on the software industry. If not designed carefully, such a directive would create a lot of juridical uncertainty, playing havoc with the whole european independent software industry, obstructing competition and, in the mid term, slowing down innovation and investment in the software industry. 

We encourage you to write to the people and express your concerns. 

This Web site is dedicated to the protection of innovation, competition and open source software against the use and abuse of software patents. 

Europe is currently prohibiting patents on computer programmes as such and requires for a patent to be granted that it has an industrial application. This gives its members an economic advantage, protects open source software all over the world and stimulates innovation made by small companies. However, powerful pressures are trying to make Europe change its wise position on software patents. freepatents.org thinks the new EU position on software patents is a threat to competition, small companies, innovation and open source software.


05/04/00 - More articles against USPTO practices

After the USPTO announced it may try to increase the inventivity level required for granting a software patent, articles have been published in ZDNet to discuss the possibility that software patents may be more harmful than useful.


29/03/00 - Belgian LUG starts petition

Students at Louvain-La-Neuve University (Belgium) have started a petition requesting EU civil servants and managers to study the impact of software patents on innovation, competition, consumer protection, etc. before taking a decision.


29/03/14 - Tesla Cars to release its electric car patents to the public

Elon Musk of Tesla Motors announced that Tesla is releasing its patents for electric car components to the public, in order to advance the development of electric vehicles. James A. of Smart Car Guide notes that the electric car is comprised of 1000s of individual components, including batterires, internal CPUs, and charging devices. "While not entirely altruistic, this is a smart move to give the clean car industry a jolt."


14/03/00 - James Gleick: "the patent system is in crisis"

In an article of the NY Times, James Gleick, author of neteconomy best sellers, claims that "a series of unplanned mutations have transformed patents into a positive threat to the digital economy. The patent office has grown entangled in philosophical confusion of its own making; it has become a ferocious generator of litigation; and many technologists believe that it has begun to choke the very innovation it was meant to nourish."


14/03/00 - Richard Stallman proposes no-first-use policy

In a letter to Tim O'Reilly, Richard Stallman notices that software patent holders say they have software patents "for defensive purposes" and proposes a global non aggression pact approach.


10/3/2000 - An open letter from Jeff Bezos on the subject of patents

Jeff Bezos (Amazon Manager) proposes to start a lobbying action to implement "fast patents" that would last 3 to 5 years and would be more appropriate for the software and ecommerce industry.


6/3/2000 - Paul Barton-Davis (Amazon founder): "I call upon the United States Patent Office to cease issuing software patents"

Paul Barton-Davis, one of the founding programmers at Amazon.com, "welcomes the use of a boycott" to enforce the end of software patents, or at least to improve the UPSPTO standards for judging software patent applications.


26/2/2000 - USPTO grants patent on online business referrals

The USPTO has granted to Amazon a patent on online business referral. The way the patent application was written clearly contains a so-called technical part. If EU was to legalise software patents based on a "technical solution of a technical problem" approach of inventivity, this kind of patent could also exist in Europe. Also, the Gartner Group predicts that, by the year 2001, between 50 and 80% of all electronic purchases will be done through affiliate networks. Sounds like Amazon wants to become the big brother of electronic commerce.


22/2/2000 - Software Useright: Solving Inconsitencies of Software Patents

JP. Smets presented at the NordU 2000 conference in Malmo an article which introduces a formal economic model of patents in the software publishing industry, shows that current patent systems may harm competition and innovation in the software publishing industry and proposed an example of approach to software patenting which may solve many of the currently known inconsistencies.


21/2/2000 - Software Patents Tangle the Web

According to Seth Shulman, the current situation of software patents "clearly favors bigger firms" and that "there's ample historical evidence that overly broad patents have stifled innovation in emerging industries". The US Supreme court was already stating 100 years ago that "it creates a class of speculative schemers who make it their business to watch the advancing wave of improvement, and gather its foam in the form of patented monopolies".


19/1/2000 - Geoworks threatens WAP standard with patents, Europe preserved

Once more, software patents are used against a W3C standard. Geoworks has announced today it is requiring WAP users to license its patent.The patent is only enforceable at the time being in US and Japan. Europe is still preserved.


Previous News

22/12/1999 RMS urges worldwide Amazon boycott
2/7/1999 Jamal Labed (Staff ET Line): "Software Patents may slow down innovation"
25/6/1999 Christian Pierret: "The economic impact on the software industry should be evaluated, especially regarding Free Software"
18/6/1999 Software Patents lead to Juridical Inconsistencies
17/6/1999 10 European Industry Leaders raise concerns about Software Patents
16/6/1999 Ralf Schoebel (Intradat): "Software patents could be damaging for the economy of small european software companies"


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