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EU Amends Software Patent Directive (Suggestions)

Hemos posted more than 10 years ago | from the still-in-draft-form dept.

Patents 160

jopet writes "The EU has amended its draft proposal for a directive on how to handle patents on "computer-implemented inventions'. Several harsh points have been dropped and clarifications on what is patentable at all have been added. Good to see that protests and petitions can make a difference." YHBT. These are the suggestions from June.

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Goddamned Eurotrash (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7023300)

"Hello! By ourselves, we are insignificant! But let's band together so we can pretend this is the 2nd millennium and feel important!"

Re:Goddamned Eurotrash (1)

EzInKy (115248) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023738)

"Hello! By ourselves, we are insignificant! But let's band together so we can pretend this is the 2nd millennium and feel important!"

We refer to that phenomenon as "E Pluribus Unum", or "Out Of Many, One" on our side of the pond.

Good news! (3, Funny)

TwistedSquare (650445) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023303)

At last - some good news regarding patents appears on slashdot. A step in the right direction at least for the EU...

Re:Good news! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7023358)

Christ man!

It's almost only a spellcheck amendment.

We're still pretty much fucked up :\

Too bad (1, Funny)

Tirel (692085) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023309)

that they only changed the wording a bit with the central point staying the same.

Oh well.

Re:Too bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7023345)

Not exactly - business process are excluded. "One click" couldn't be patented in EU for example.

Re:Too bad (1)

Ralph Yarro (704772) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023388)

That isn't a business process patent it's a software patent. Who cares whether you can use the business model if nobody can implement one click buying in software?

Re:Too bad (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7023403)

A computer-implemented invention shall not be regarded as making a technical contribution merely because it involves the use of a computer, network or other programmable apparatus. Accordingly, inventions involving computer programs which implement business, mathematical or other methods and do not produce any technical effects beyond the normal physical interactions between a program and the computer, network or other programmable apparatus in which it is run shall not be patentable

No One Click.

Re:Too bad (1)

Ralph Yarro (704772) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023446)

You might be right then, but it's the first sentence that's crucial. The second one is full of holes, and in particular one-click affects interaction with a user not just between a program and a computer, network etc. Even with the first sentence in there I won't be surprised to see them let it through.

Aah! My software patent directive! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7023313)

I'm not supposed to get jigs in it!

Well it's a start (2, Insightful)

Kevin_ap (597233) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023317)

but the patent system still need a radical revamp

Re:Well it's a start (2, Informative)

haeger (85819) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023416)

I got the news that the Finns have adopted the FFII's thoughts about this issue and will vote against SW-patents.
Let's just hope that there are more people that will "get it" soon.

I tried to include the letter but the lameness filter thought that there were too many whitespaces. *sigh*
It's probably somewhere on FFII's homepage [ffii.org] anyway.

.haeger

Insightful? (1)

Dusabre (176445) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023450)

May the US system needs a revamp but do you know anything about the European?

You may be thinking about patenting processes, ideas, DNA and other rubbish but the EU system isn't as abused or open to abuse as the US.

How in frag did this get modded up to insightful?

I would have thought the author would have at least needed to mention what in his opinion needs revamping.

This is as insightful as 'Microsoft needs to be nice' and 'Hot chicks should love geeks'.

Thanks for the link but, (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7023321)

I'm not exactly fluent in european legal mumbo jumbo, and I don't think many people are. Who's gonna understand this story? European patent lawyers?

Quite a piece of text. (-1, Troll)

Leffe (686621) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023324)

Sign here if you read all of it:
________________________________

The reward is a free eCookie(soon to be patented).

Lesser of two evils? (3, Insightful)

Zocalo (252965) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023331)

Great, they've removed some of the harsher language. Woohoo! Of course, the flip side of that is that MEPs that were erring over that language are now more likely to vote for it than before. We used to have a chance of a Software Patent free EU, but I doubt that is going to happen now.

Still, at least it shows that MEPs *do* listen to their constituents, so there is some hope...

Re:Lesser of two evils? (2, Funny)

azzy (86427) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023417)

> Great, they've removed some of the harsher language.

Yes, they changed fucking software patents to software patents .

There never was a Software Patent Free EU (2, Informative)

CrystalFalcon (233559) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023422)

There are _tons_ of software patents in the EU. It's just that their status have been rather undetermined, and filing for such a patent - while possible - has been a sort of a gamble, as nobody has known the future of their enforceability.

Now, thanks to this directive, we do know. And I think it's a huge step forward, and in the right direction to boot.

(Given that it passes, at least.)

Re:There never was a Software Patent Free EU (2, Interesting)

Daniel Phillips (238627) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023671)

There are _tons_ of software patents in the EU. It's just that their status have been rather undetermined, and filing for such a patent - while possible - has been a sort of a gamble, as nobody has known the future of their enforceability. Now, thanks to this directive, we do know.

What do we know, are they enforceable or not?

Re:There never was a Software Patent Free EU (3, Insightful)

CrystalFalcon (233559) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023735)

If you ask me, the response would be that stupid and trivial software patents aren't, algorithm and process patents aren't, computerized 14th century practices aren't, whereas those that are classic patents that just happens to involve a computer, like "method for improving output of sawmill involving computerized scales and sorting" or similar, will be.

But IANAL. In any case, in my view of the world, this directive is a step forward from the current situation.

(Especially given that everything interop is nonpatentable and noninfringing.)

Re:Lesser of two evils? (4, Funny)

jez_f (605776) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023461)

Still, at least it shows that MEPs *do* listen to their constituents
Once they recover from the shock of hearing from them that is.

Re:Lesser of two evils? (1)

crizh (257304) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023532)

Score:5 Funny

ROFLMAO!!

Is this enough to stop a repeat of LZW? (3, Interesting)

Xner (96363) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023332)

(13c) Furthermore, an algorithm is inherently non-technical and therefore cannot constitute a technical invention. Nonetheless, a method involving the use of an algorithm might be patentable provided that the method is used to solve a technical problem. However, any patent granted for such a method would not monopolise the algorithm itself or its use in contexts not foreseen in the patent.
On the surface it seems this amendment would stop patenting general purpose algorithms. On the other hand, a suitably lax definition of "technical problem" makes this all moot. "The LZW arithmetic coding algorithm" is not patentable. "Using the LZW algorithm for data comression" however is. You are still free to use it for other things (like what? Creative Garbling?), but we all the the Phyrricity of that victory.

Re:Is this enough to stop a repeat of LZW? (1)

Lars T. (470328) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023386)

Using the LZW algorithm for text analysis / author identification.

Re:Is this enough to stop a repeat of LZW? (1)

CBravo (35450) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023394)

I think this means something different.

Suppose there is an algorithm to obtain two primes from their multiplied form (not patentable). Now suppose someone found code that could do that x times faster. I guess that would be patentable under these terms.

Re:Is this enough to stop a repeat of LZW? (2, Insightful)

Xner (96363) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023455)

Suppose there is an algorithm to obtain two primes from their multiplied form (not patentable). Now suppose someone found code that could do that x times faster. I guess that would be patentable under these terms.

What you are suggesting is either a different algorithm (I presume that it would have a different "big O", therefore a different "recipe", therefore a different algorith) or a specific optimized implementation of the same algorithm. The latter may or may not be patentable, I have not studied the full text of the directive. However, look at the text:

the use of an algorithm might be patentable provided that the method is used to solve a technical problem.
This implies that while "algorithm to obtain two primes from their multiplied form" would not merit a patent, "Method to decrypt ciphered content" that uses the same algorithm would, effectively precluding its use in its main application area. My thesis is that allowing this kind of protection is but a short step from allowing patentability of the algorithm as a whole, since alternative applications for most alorithms are few and far between.

Re:Is this enough to stop a repeat of LZW? (2, Insightful)

fulgan (116418) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023413)


On the surface it seems this amendment would stop patenting general purpose algorithms. On the other hand, a suitably lax definition of "technical problem" makes this all moot. "The LZW arithmetic coding algorithm" is not patentable. "Using the LZW algorithm for data comression" however is.


Actually, I don't quite agree here: others amendment makes it clear that, in order for something to be "patentable", they must a) not be made only of the assembly of unpatentable items (art. 13a and 13b) and b) involve an "inventive" (and patentable) step (Art. 13c)

Therefor, it can be argued that, if LZW is not patentable, mearly applying it to data compression isn't either since it doesn't invlove anything that is patentable and it doesn't invlove and "new way" to solve the technical problem at hands.

Re:Is this enough to stop a repeat of LZW? (1)

tubs (143128) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023432)

In order to be patentable, inventions in general and computer-implemented inventions in particular must be susceptible of industrial application, new and involve an inventive step. In order to involve an inventive step, computer-implemented inventions should make a technical contribution to the state of the art.

But wouldn't it fall foul of this? Using the LZW algorithm to compress data, isn't new and isn't inventive (data compression, been done for ages, but with different algorithms).

Well you'd hope the patent checker would pick it up ....

Re:Is this enough to stop a repeat of LZW? (3, Informative)

Michael Hackl (462380) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023536)

no LZW will ever be excluded from patentability because you cannot patent anything that is only code, algorithm or formula

Article 4a

Exclusions from patentability:

A computer-implemented invention shall not be regarded as making a technical contribution merely because it involves the use of a computer, network or other programmable apparatus. Accordingly, inventions involving computer programs which implement business, mathematical or other methods and do not produce any technical effects beyond the normal physical interactions between a program and the computer, network or other programmable apparatus in which it is run shall not be patentable.

Re:Is this enough to stop a repeat of LZW? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7023582)

This 13c alone might not be, but 6a seems to be enough to quote:

6a: "Member States shall ensure that wherever the use of a patented technique is needed for the sole purpose of ensuring conversion of the conventions used in two different computer systems or network so as to allow communication and exchange of data content between them, such use is not considered to be a patent infringement"

So it seems to be allowed to compress data using LZW if that is need to communicate to a system that assumes data is compressed with the LZW algorithm.

This still does not allow use of LZW in whatever application you want, but as soon as it is needed to communicate with some other system that happens to use LZW it should not be considered patent infringement.

Since i am not a lawyer i have no clue what happens if you want to communicate with a system that uses LZW illegally, but this 6a seems to offer some possibilities at least

Finally (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7023337)

Tryggve power!

Could it mean... (0)

lanswitch (705539) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023342)

The realisation of the internal market implies the elimination of restrictions to free circulation and of distortions in competition, while creating an environment which is favourable to innovation and investment.

This looks like it could be the end of Microsoft in the EU. Or am i getting my hopes up?

Yes, you are getting your hopes up. (2, Insightful)

Xner (96363) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023378)

First of all, MS has enough inertia(not to mention cash) to keep coasting along on their installed user base for decades. Then you must remember that this actually allows software patents in the EU, they are forbidden right now. This plays in MS's hand, though less so than the system that is in place in the US. Also the DMCA-like EUCD is moving in the same direction.

But the most important thing is that, in order to curtail predatory business practices one must prosecute effectively, because failure to do so renders the entire legal framework a waste of paper. I love the EU with all my heart, but sometimes wasting paper is all they seem to be good at.

Re:Yes, you are getting your hopes up. (1, Insightful)

lanswitch (705539) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023445)

And sometimes they do useful things. Like Agnula, (www.agnula.org). It looks like teh (?) EU has an opinion about which software we should use. As a government they can't support or fight a company, and all they have is the legal system. I think the EU is using theirs to stimulate healthy competition, and that would automatically mean trouble for a company like microsoft.

Old draft from June (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7023355)

It says clearly that the draft is from 18th June 2003 in the top left corner. So how can this be news? Does *anybody* REALLY know/care if all those petitions against eu-it-patents are really still relevant? Does the right hand know what the left hand does? Do petition site owners know what place their petitions belong to? A MEP or (already!) the toilet? I don't know...

Amendment 20, Article 6 a (new) (4, Interesting)

perttu (525033) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023359)

Article 6a

Member States shall ensure that wherever the use of a patented technique is needed for the sole purpose of ensuring conversion of the conventions used in two different computer systems or network so as to allow communication and exchange of data content between them, such use is not considered to be a patent infringement

Re:Amendment 20, Article 6 a (new) (1)

shrik3 (581113) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023613)

Member States shall ensure that wherever the use of a patented technique is needed for the sole purpose of ensuring conversion of the conventions used in two different computer systems or network so as to allow communication and exchange of data content between them, such use is not considered to be a patent infringement
So it is legal to make, for example, a MSWord -> OOo -converter, even though it breaks some patents?

Re:Amendment 20, Article 6 a (new) (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7023670)

No, No NO! You read this amendment wrong!

The amendment you quote is deleted from the current draft, because was put in by mistake by Arlene Mcarthy and Co.

Their amendment no goes like this:
Article 6 a (new)

----
Article 6a

The rights conferred by patents granted for inventions within the scope of this Directive shall be without prejudice to acts permitted by way of exception under Directive 91/250/EEC on the legal protection of computer programs by copyright, in particular the acts specified and described in the closed list set out in Articles 5(2) and (3) and 6 of Directive 91/250/EEC.
----

Article 6 does not sound as good as it before, now does it?

This directive is just as bad as all the previous.

MEP's: Please stop this EU Software Patent nonsense by rejecting the whole directive!

Write/Call your MEP before it is too late.

regards.

BobCat

Holy Crap! (4, Funny)

kurosawdust (654754) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023364)

Linus and Alan Cox must've said something to light a fire under the EU's ass! Maybe they mentioned off-hand that they had been hanging out with ESR and were starting to take a "liking" to firearms... :P

Re:Holy Crap! (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023408)

I actually think that Linus's and Alan's letter was a bit lacking. As two important people in the field, I had expected them to be a bit more elaborate; they could have come up with some cases to back up their claims, for example. The EuroLinux petition [eurolinux.org] does a much better job at this.

Re:Holy Crap! (1)

h0tblack (575548) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023484)

Not to mention that Linus and Alan's letter was dated yesterday and no committee I know of can come up with a decision let alone ammendments to a document like this in under 24 hours.

Re:Holy Crap! (1)

infolib (618234) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023492)

That letter was just one small part of a huge lobbying campaign, primarily directed by the FFII.org. Good they wrote it, though.

Re:Holy Crap! (1)

tony_000001 (647749) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023504)

I think it was that a lot of people wrote to their MEPs. I know i did.

Seems good. (4, Insightful)

levell (538346) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023365)

The changing seem pretty good e.g.from the justifications:

Unlimited patent protection for software could make it illegal under patent law to engage in reverse engineering practices employed by software developers to achieve interoperability as currently permitted under the exceptions in the Software Copyright Directive. Therefore future EU-legislation related to software patents must include an explicit exception to patent rights in order to ensure that developers of software can continue to engage in the same acts to achieve interoperability under patent law as they are allowed to today within the limits of copyright law."

and: "It is essential to monitor the impact of the patentability of computer-implemented inventions on small and medium-sized undertakings. "

and: This recital makes it clear that it is not enough to specify the use of a computer (i.e. of technical means) to make a computer-implemented invention patentable. The invention as a whole must make a technical contribution. Ordinary data processing is not enough.

and finally: It is essential to make it clear that this Directive is not revolutionary and will not change the status quo as regards the patentability of computer-implemented inventions. It will, however, make for legal certainty and set clear limits as to what is patentable in this area.

As someone who wrote to their MEP, I'm pretty pleased with the changes, looks like we made a difference!

Re:Seems good. (1)

Daniel Phillips (238627) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023479)

It is essential to monitor the impact of the patentability of computer-implemented inventions on small and medium-sized undertakings.

That was there before as I recall, and it means bugger all. What promise does it make that you can quantify?

article 4a: exclusions from patentability (4, Informative)

sandman4k (153672) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023367)

One of the most important amendments they added is article 4a:

Exclusions from patentability:

A computer-implemented invention shall not be regarded as making a technical contribution merely because it involves the use of a computer, network or other programmable apparatus. Accordingly, inventions involving computer programs which implement business, mathematical or other methods and do not produce any technical effects beyond the normal physical interactions between a program and the computer, network or other programmable apparatus in which it is run shall not be patentable


Re:article 4a: exclusions from patentability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7023376)

So, no One-Click patents in Europe. Bezos must be crying into his pile of cash.

Re:article 4a: exclusions from patentability (2, Informative)

aderuwe (539595) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023415)

I'd say 13c is pretty important, as well:

Furthermore, an algorithm is inherently non-technical and therefore cannot constitute a technical invention. Nonetheless, a method involving the use of an algorithm might be patentable provided that the method is used to solve a technical problem. However, any patent granted for such a method would not monopolise the algorithm itself or its use in contexts not foreseen in the patent.

Re:article 4a: exclusions from patentability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7023427)

Does this mean that a computer program that is used to build a robot is patentable, but one that only affects things on a computer is not?
If so things like LZW compression are not patentable :)

Re:article 4a: exclusions from patentability (2, Insightful)

Daniel Phillips (238627) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023520)

A computer-implemented invention shall not be regarded as making a technical contribution merely because it involves the use of a computer, network or other programmable apparatus. Accordingly, inventions involving computer programs which implement business, mathematical or other methods and do not produce any technical effects beyond the normal physical interactions between a program and the computer, network or other programmable apparatus in which it is run shall not be patentable.

These are weasel words that can easily be circumvented by an appropriate definition of "technical effects". For example, this rather pointedly leaves "the user" out of the list of physical interactions. So any "technical effect" on the user, such as saving mouse clicks by using cookies when shopping online, for example, can be patented.

Man, that was fast! (1)

YouHaveSnail (202852) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023371)

Linus and Alan write on Sunday, and the EU jumps on Monday. Good show, gentlemen!

Faster than you think.. (2, Insightful)

k98sven (324383) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023400)

Linus and Alan write on Sunday, and the EU jumps on Monday. Good show, gentlemen!

Given that the amendment is from June they're even faster than that!

Re:Man, that was fast! (1)

ctl (685617) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023402)

Linus and Alan write on Sunday, and the EU jumps on Monday. Good show, gentlemen!

I very much doubt that it was merely these two citizens who made the difference, considering all the work done by other activists. And as far as the timing is concerned, the whole thing was scheduled for the session taking place this week, so actually Linus and Alan wrote the day before... not the other way round!

Some points (5, Interesting)

sufehmi (134793) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023377)

  • "...(online) petition can make a difference" ?
    I won't be too sure about that, not when many MEP doesn't (have time to) browse Internet regularly.
    (read Tom Chance's story about his lobbying efforts)

  • It STILL allows software to be patented.

  • Although with many restrictions, including declaring that business method/algorithm to be non-patentable.

  • BUT we have witnessed cases where corporations are able to twist interpretations, and challenge everyone who questioned to go to court.
    Small companies/individuals, which can not afford the cost, will simply admit defeat and comply to whatever the big corporations are demanding them to.

  • So personally, I think we still need to do a lot of real (not virtual) lobbying to ensure that software are not patentable.
    EU have no software-patent legislation now, and to my knowledge, there are no CLEAR cases that justifies this (feel free to enlighten me though)

Just my 2 pence on the topic.

Re:Some points (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7023387)

BUT we have witnessed cases where corporations are able to twist interpretations, and challenge everyone who questioned to go to court.
Small companies/individuals, which can not afford the cost, will simply admit defeat and comply to whatever the big corporations are demanding them to.


Thats nice, but it is unlikely (Or at least, less likely) to work in the EU. Here, the looser generally pays court costs. Which means that a big bully corporation with no leg to stand on can't just throw acusations in an attempt to kill the small guy in the court systems.

Re:Some points (2, Informative)

sufehmi (134793) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023464)


Thats nice, but it is unlikely (Or at least, less likely) to work in the EU. Here, the looser generally pays court costs. Which means that a big bully corporation with no leg to stand on can't just throw acusations in an attempt to kill the small guy in the court systems.


This can still be circumvented with good (read: mighty expensive) lawyers - something that big corporations definitely can afford.

"Then the small guy should just use a good lawyer as well" - well, he's fine if he wins.

But since the court can be like lottery sometimes, what IF he lose?
No way me (for example) will be able to pay several hundred grant for lawyer's fee.

The law should be leaning heavily towards the small guy, and this is a chance for us to realise it on the topic that we all care about - IT.

Re:Some points (1)

Ralph Yarro (704772) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023498)

Here, the looser generally pays court costs.

Presumably because if they're too tight then they won't pay up anyway. That's a very pragmatic approach.

Re:Some points (1)

jez_f (605776) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023511)

It is better. I 'mailed my MEPs after reading a story on /. a while ago. Got a pretty good response*. It is nice to see that some of my concerns have been addressed. If enough people write to them they will take notice.
I mean if you are not going to be able to stop the drive for software patents it is better to have some sensible legislation for it.
The changes here seem to be good for the most part. The emphasis on new technical solutions to problems rather than any old algorithm or method could work well. At the end of the day it will depend on how well new patents are policed.

* Except from the Tory who's lackey mailed me a few times asking for my address so that I could be sent a letter, my saying that email was better didn't seem to work. Eventually gave in and got some pro business pro patent response.

Re:Some points (1)

ThyTurkeyIsDone (695324) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023577)

It STILL allows software to be patented.

Hmmm, I'm not so sure. Article 4a says:

A computer-implemented invention shall not be regarded as making a technical contribution merely because it involves the use of a computer, network or other programmable apparatus. Accordingly, inventions involving computer programs which implement business, mathematical or other methods and do not produce any technical effects beyond the normal physical interactions between a program and the computer, network or other programmable apparatus in which it is run shall not be patentable.


This seems to exclude software patents, as far as I can tell. However, the language throughout the whole directive is still extremely weaselly.

Re:Some points (1)

MoreDruid (584251) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023653)

(online) petition: they presented the petition IRL to the MEP's

Furthermore, there was a demonstration in front of the EU office in Brussels (I went there). About 500 people showed up, which is an extraordinary feat considering they anounced it only about 1 week in advance. There were people present from the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Germany and Denmark. And those are the people I talked to, so there may have been more nationalities. I say, this was pretty effective. Their goal was not to abandon all e-patent legislature (that's a pipe dream and they know it), but that the legislature would be set within reasonable bounds. And this is what we (they really - I just showed up for a cool meeting with geeks, and they do the hard work) tried to get across.

Re:Some points (1)

sufehmi (134793) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023875)

This article confirms my suspicion, that the amendment will still allow software to be patented:
Why Amazon One Click Shopping is Patentable under the Proposed EU Directive [ffii.org]

And thanks to Elektroschock, which informed me that the amendment is actually proposed by the proponent of software patent.
FFII and other parties are currently lobbying against it [slashdot.org]

So for everyone who lives in EU and care about IT - let's start doing something about it [ffii.org] .

good and bad (2, Informative)

ZorroXXX (610877) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023379)

At least they have the rationale behind patenting right:

Justification
The object of any law relating to patenting is not to ensure that patent-holders enjoy an advantage: the advantage granted to the patent-holder is only a means of encouraging the inventive process for the benefit of the society as whole. The advantages granted to the patent-holder must not work against this ultimate objective of the patent principle.

Too bad that they fail to realise that for the vast majority og patents today the benefit of the society as whole is close to zero while the benefit for the patent holder is an opportunety to create obstacles for competitors (som much for "free" competition).

Good Thing (4, Insightful)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023380)

I am happy to see that the EU listens to criticism. I am even more happy to see that they adapted the directive to make it abundantly clear that algorithms as such cannot be patented, and explicitly upheld the right to reverse engineer. This is a Good Thing.

However, there is still cause for alarm. For example, what is meant by:
In order to be patentable, a computer-implemented invention must be susceptible of industrial application and new and involve an inventive step. In order to involve an inventive step, a computer-implemented invention must make a technical contribution.


There are quite some terms here that could be interpreted wide enough to still pose a threat. Moreover, this is just one proposal; it may change again in the future. Still, I sigh in relief.

Re:Good Thing (1)

troc (3606) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023592)

Terms such as "inventive step" and "technical contribution" are actually very well defined in public EPO (european patent office) documents such as their "guidelines" and their case law and are, as such, not open to interpretation problems.

Yes, they are boring legal documents (in three languages though, whoohoo) and as such not the most exciting read, but they do define what the EPO means by their various terms and are used by all parties, including interested third parties (who are welcome to comment or oppose the patent at any time from initial publication of the application to after final grant) during the process.

Troc

Not perfect, but some good stuff here (2, Insightful)

Glassbear (557667) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023389)

A lot of the proposed amendments add new clauses that specifically limit software patenting. Probaly not enough limits to satisfy the "no software patents" crowd, but still... it sure would be nice if U.S. law took some of these principles a little more clearly to heart:

(13a) However, the mere implementation of an otherwise unpatentable method on an apparatus such as a computer is not in itself sufficient to warrant a finding that a technical contribution is present. Accordingly, a computer-implemented business method or other method in which the only contribution to the state of the art is non-technical cannot constitute a patentable invention.

* * * * *

(13b) If the contribution to the state of the art relates solely to unpatentable matter, there can be no patentable invention irrespective of how the matter is presented in the claims. For example, the requirement for technical contribution cannot be circumvented merely by specifying technical means in the patent claims.

* * * * *

(13c) Furthermore, an algorithm is inherently non-technical and therefore cannot constitute a technical invention. Nonetheless, a method involving the use of an algorithm might be patentable provided that the method is used to solve a technical problem. However, any patent granted for such a method would not monopolise the algorithm itself or its use in contexts not foreseen in the patent.

* * * * *

2. A claim to a computer program, on its own, on a carrier or as a signal, shall be allowable only if such program would, when loaded or run on a computer, computer network or other programmable apparatus, implement a product or carry out a process patentable under Articles 4 and 4a.

Actually, my favorite part might be one of the preamble amendments:

The object of any law relating to patenting is not to ensure that patent-holders enjoy an advantage: the advantage granted to the patent-holder is only a means of encouraging the inventive process for the benefit of the society as whole. The advantages granted to the patent-holder must not work against this ultimate objective of the patent principle.

This part should be required reading at the USPTO... :-)

Re:Not perfect, but some good stuff here (1)

Daniel Phillips (238627) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023616)

any patent granted for such a method would not monopolise the algorithm itself or its use in contexts not foreseen in the patent

So far example, just write "used in an Operating System or Application program" and you have covered pretty much all contexts. What the heck, make a list of every possible specific context: database, spreadsheet, multimedia, engineering, whatever. Patent examiners have a history of being highly uncritical of obvious workarounds, letting a three page list of possible application context slip through would just be par for the course.

Main Amendments (4, Informative)

Marlor (643698) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023396)

As far as I can see, here are the amendments that will have the most impact:

(13a) However, the mere implementation of an otherwise unpatentable method on an apparatus such as a computer is not in itself sufficient to warrant a finding that a technical contribution is present. Accordingly, a computer-implemented business method or other method in which the only contribution to the state of the art is non-technical cannot constitute a patentable invention.

(13b) If the contribution to the state of the art relates solely to unpatentable matter, there can be no patentable invention irrespective of how the matter is presented in the claims. For example, the requirement for technical contribution cannot be circumvented merely by specifying technical means in the patent claims.

Article 4a - Exclusions from patentability:
A computer-implemented invention shall not be regarded as making a technical contribution merely because it involves the use of a computer, network or other programmable apparatus. Accordingly, inventions involving computer programs which implement business, mathematical or other methods and do not produce any technical effects beyond the normal physical interactions between a program and the computer, network or other programmable apparatus in which it is run shall not be patentable.

Article 6a
Member States shall ensure that wherever the use of a patented technique is needed for the sole purpose of ensuring conversion of the conventions used in two different computer systems or network so as to allow communication and exchange of data content between them, such use is not considered to be a patent infringement.

So, business methods and algorithms are not patentable, and normally unpatentable inventions cannot be patented just because they are implemented in a novel way.

Also, an exemption has been added whereby you can't be charged with patent infringement if you are simply attempting to achieve interoperability with another program.

Quite a few of the major issues with the legislation have been fixed. I am surprised... politicians have actually listened to the complaints, and not just made token changes.

Re:Main Amendments (0)

Elektroschock (659467) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023746)

Se our comments on this amendment, these are the amendments of McCarthy-JURI we protest against because they are fake limits [ffii.org] . McCarthy rejected all important amendments that could define the word "technical". Our comments on the 120 amendments that will be voted on wednesday see here [ffii.org] .

Are you kidding ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7023398)

The link given is dated from June 2003. This is nothing new, and there is still no news about what's happening right now in the EU parlement.

Please check your sources before publishing news that are not.

Warning! More then 100 Amendments filed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7023404)

This seems very dangerous. There are more then 100 amendments filed, but lots are not really improvements. Some don't even clarify anything, but just obscure what is/isn't patentable even more!

Please monitor the ffii.org website for a table of fake and real limits on patentability:

http://swpat.ffii.org/papers/eubsa-swpat0202/ple n0 309/index.en.html

protests and petitions can make a difference? (1, Funny)

Joe Tie. (567096) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023426)

Sorry to break the news to you, but it had nothing to do with these online protests and petitions. You see, a wandering hobo sold me a magic 'anti-patent legislation/anti-tiger/rain making' rock a couple days ago. I find this to be the more likley cause of not only these events, but the fact that the sun continues to come up, no tigers have appeared on my lawn, and that rain is forecasted in my area next week.

Re:protests and petitions can make a difference? (2, Insightful)

dazk (665669) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023525)

You are wrong. Individual Homepages being shut down might not have made a difference but European politicians already started to complain about the amount of letters and mails they got. Also the voices of quite a few small and medium sized businesses joined the choir. I really don't think all of this went by unheard.

This is sooo cool... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7023429)

...a draft from 3 month ago already outdating all running petitions! Does anybody of these petition site owners really care about patents or just about collecting emails?

We're witnessing a community of million(?) peoples that need 3 month to discover such a critical document.
Maybe the next time I want to change things I'll learn how to crash a plane into a building instead of wasting my time with petitions.

Europe vs. U.S. (2, Interesting)

rolux (99682) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023439)

Europe's political stance towards the U.S. is shifting, from close alliance to more competition, if not confrontation.

So Europeans start to notice that pushing Open Source, be it adopting Linux on the desktop, be it simply not passing laws that make OSS development impossible, is going to give them a competitive advantage in the long run.

As a European, I would be as critical about "European Linux hegemony" as I am about "American Microsoft hegemony", but still... Issues like this one may sooner or later make U.S. lawmakers realize that in the end it's the economy, stupid.

Re:Europe vs. U.S. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7023551)

We need the U.S., for competition... to keep us alert. And to remind us what road NOT to take: http://www.house.gov/reform/min/politicsandscience /

Re:Europe vs. U.S. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7023811)

Mm, I still feel that competition is something US companies and their representatives find annoying, if you look at the lack of competition and the lack of government action on market-faillure in the US then I dont think thats the way the EU has too look to keep "sharp", I think asia will become more and more important as the main competitor for EU companies, and if TCPA kicks in in the US (backed by law) then innovation will primairily come form asia and europe

Most of you have it all wrong... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7023449)

...first of all, it's an old story, look at the dates!!!

Secondly, it isn't anything close to a move preventing software patents! Learn to read before assuming victory!

Earliest European Patents ? (1)

toofanx (679091) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023465)

I got the following from the first few paras of "Explanation":
The proposal under consideration is not revolutionary. The patenting of computer-implemented inventions is not new. Indeed, patents involving use of software have been applied for and granted since the earliest days of the European patent system . . .
Is this really true ? Does this mean that the European patent system started in 1980s ? Or that software patents were in existence before that ?

Re:Earliest European Patents ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7023807)

Does this mean that the European patent system started in 1980s

Yes, most likely. The EU hasn't been around for very long (relatively speaking). Work leading up to the current EU, started as a result of WWII. The idea is that countries are less inclined to go to war with each other if they cooperate closely.

Bad old news. Plenary vote on wed sept 24th. (5, Informative)

xdrudis (599934) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023472)

The link goes ot the fairly bad [caliu.info] JURI report.


As already said this is old news (June). But this was no good news, since the report endorsed the Commission software patent proposal, although it pretended they were not allowing software patents.


This amendments and those tabled for plenary by political groups and >= 32 MEPs will be debated tommorrow and voted on wednesday. There are good enough amendments tabled, but the question is how many votes they will get. There are also motions for rejection by 4 political groups.

MOD PARENT UP! (5, Insightful)

infolib (618234) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023538)

Stop the misinformation please. The editors have been fooled. This guy, on the other hand knows what he's talking about. [slashdot.org]

Open Source is for Patents (1)

toofanx (679091) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023478)

According to point 2 in the second para of "Explanatory Statements":
Secondly, there is no disagreement, even in the open-source community, that the law of intellectual property should protect computer programs.
There is no disagreement, in my mind, that this document is a bag of lies.

Well (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7023480)

Who honestly gives a fucking shit?

Re:Well (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7023501)

No motherfucker, that's who.

Re:Well (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7023600)

Parent has a valid point. Kindly mod back up.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: FFII take on it (5, Informative)

TeXMaster (593524) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023502)

An analysis of these amendments is available here [ffii.org]

Re:The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: FFII take on it (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7023528)

STFU you mongoloid.

Amazon patent excluded? (2, Interesting)

Frans Faase (648933) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023602)

The real test will be whether the patent that already has been granted to Amazon by the European Patent Office (EPO) will be excluded. It is a patent about sending gifts through a web site, e.g., the possibility of sending an item to an other address than where the bill goes.

This is just one of the 30.000 software related patents that have been granted by the EPO but which are not enforced yet by any European law. If the new law is not going to invalidate some of those patents, then it is simply useless, because patents granted by the EPO would define the interpretation of the law.

This article it totally crap (5, Insightful)

Elektroschock (659467) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023619)

This is the JURI proposal as introduced by rapporteur Arlene McCarthy and voted in JURI we fight against, an amendment to the original Business Software Aliance/EU Commission proposal.

It is very common that patent protagonists lied to the general public and their collegues. Patent lawyers are like crackers. Cracker circumvent security, patent lawyers circumvent restrictions of patent law. A patent lawyer that cannot file a patent on software patents with the current "JURI amended"-directive proposal would not be worth his money.

Here you find the amendments [ffii.org] that will be voted on and FFII's recommendation. FFII and the Eurolinux Alliance are very strong in Brussels and they grow stronger every day. Many parliamentarians listen to us and then the directive protagonists sell the directive as an fulfillment of our concerns, switching rhethorics, but not substance. About 200 people now focus on this issue as activists on our mailing lists. You can subscribe to patent@aful.org [aful.org] or take part in theOnline demonstration [wiki.ael.be] or become a member/supporter of FFII [ffii.org] or sign the Eurolinux Petition [noepatents.org] . You can support FFII by donations or even better by contributions. The European Parliament underestimated us. The patent lawyer slaves in Europarl came under strong pressure. We will be a mayor stakeholder in any future debate. The Green Party/EFA Groups impressed by our work even called for Open Source in the EU institutions [greens-efa.org]

The Green/EFA group in the European Parliament has called on the EU, and in particular on the European Parliament, to support free/open-source software by introducing it into their IT systems. In a letter to the Secretary General of the Parliament, Julian Priestley, dated 9 September, the two Green/EFA Co-Presidents Monica Frassoni and Daniel Cohn-Bendit, argue that - as well as supporting Europe's software industry - switching to free and open source software would benefit the Parliament in terms of data continuity, technological independence and budgetary considerations. It would additionally take note of the Parliament's Echelon resolution, which recommended using non-proprietary software to increase technological security.
I also would like to remind you that the US government lobbied against us [ffii.org] , esp. against interoperability in the directive. The wrote a letter to EU parliamentarians. I think it is time to internationalize the debate and we need your help to get rid of EU, US, JP ecc. trivial software patents. Unfortunately OSI does not support anti-swpat action and very few US activists joined forces with us. An OSI representative (Russell Nelson) from the board of directors says they are "neutral" not really caring about Intellectual Property, and that's what is written in their FAQ.

Re:This article it totally crap (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7023736)

Slashdot doing any discussion on EU patents is total crap every single time. It is a common slashdot theme, most likely related to their US centric ways.

Re:This article it totally crap (1)

Elektroschock (659467) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023788)

I am not anti-American. I fully respect the Americans. Sometimes they don't know what they are talking about but same applies to everyone. Europeans usually know very little about life in Africa. Africans know little about Europeans. Americans know very little about the Arab world. and so on. We all have a bias, communication is the bridge. We are affected by your patents, you are affected by ours. So it is natural to support each others.

Some myths already debunked !! (1)

pirhana (577758) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023656)

Even though this is not at all perfect and what we all would like to have ultimately, this itself have debunked some myths.

Myth #1 Only "big lobbyist" groups like RIAA and "big money" have the capacity to lobby effectively and change laws.

Myth #2 Software programmers , especially FLOSS people can be only arm chair activists and not real activists.

Myth #3 European politicians are completely sold out to bug business corporations and are there to protect their interst only.

In short this one incident shows that small groups like free software activists and other groups CAN make a lot of change if they shed off the cynisism and coplacency and start to act. European activists really took the matter and ACTED rather than being cynical and complacent(yah, weird coexistence of 2 bad characters) like US counterparts. If they continue to do like this, more success is sure. This should be a real boost for all the activists and they should be able to work more vigorously for the next steps. I wish US people take a clue from this incident.

Re:Some myths already debunked !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7023801)

Myth #1 Only "big lobbyist" groups like RIAA and "big money" have the capacity to lobby effectively and change laws.
...outside the US.

Myth #2 Software programmers , especially FLOSS people can be only arm chair activists and not real activists.
...outside the US

Myth #3 European politicians are completely sold out to bug business corporations and are there to protect their interst only.
...I won't even try to proove this wrong myself ;-)

Not good enough & What can we do about it (3, Insightful)

sufehmi (134793) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023683)

The amendments still allows software patent.

Worst, it's indeed aimed to enable a party to patent the idea.
(search for " opyright" in the document - don't forget to type the extra space in the beginning)

I agree with various parties, including Linus, that copyright (protection for the expression / the actual code) alone is already enough for software developers.
Ideas should never be patentable.

I know that business method and algorithm are non-patentable by the amendment, but:

[#] EU currently forbid software to be patented, and it's doing OK with numerous software houses, big and small alike, flourishing.

[#] So there's lack of justifiable case for this legislation to exist at all.
A software-patent legislation means making a small opening, which may lead to currently unseen consequences in the future.

[#] This software-patent legislation should not exist at all.
We should aim for its cancellation, not its amendment.

But as revealed by a lobbyist (Ciaran?) some time ago in Slashdot, MEPs doesn't like the idea of rejecting a legislation proposal; since they view it as a waste of EU resources.
So this definitely is not going to be easy. But I think we have to aim that high, for our own future.

I've also written another comment that may be relevant here [slashdot.org] .

Anyway, I'd like to write/fax (not email/other virtual means of communication) to my representative in EU parliament. But so far I've failed to find out how.
Can anyone enlighten me please ?

Thanks.

Re:Not good enough & What can we do about it (2, Informative)

Elektroschock (659467) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023701)

This is the McCarthy-Juri amendment proposal we fight against. This is what we protest against.

Re:Not good enough & What can we do about it (1)

sufehmi (134793) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023825)

This is the McCarthy-Juri amendment proposal we fight against. This is what we protest against

That's a relief.... thanks for the information.

I'm still looking for ways to reach my MEP via snail mail/fax though, and will write him/her about my thought on the issue.

This is NOT the version they will vote on. (5, Informative)

klokan (705060) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023690)

This is the draft version of June 18, which is the one that was supposed to be voted on on 1st September. That vote has been postponed and new changes have been made. Let's wait the real thing, before commenting any further.

We're hardly out of the woods yet... (4, Insightful)

Serious Simon (701084) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023708)

Good to see that protests and petitions can make a difference

Unfortunately, that remains to be seen.

First of all, as far as I know a vote is necessary to determine if these amendments make it into the directive.

Even so, most of these amendments are just polishing language. They do not really change the character of the directive proposal, in that it allows software patents (in contradiction to what it says in the explanatory part that it intends to clarify the existing European Patent Convention, and not to replace it. The EPC explicitly prohibits software patents).

A big problem is the definition of the term "technical". It can easily be argued that the use of a certain algorithm e.g. to improve software performance is "technical" and can be patented even if the algorithm itself cannot be patented. Hopefully the following amendment will be included in the final directive:

The use of natural forces to control physical effects beyond the digital representation of information belongs to a technical field. The processing, handling, and presentation of information do not belong to a technical field, even where technical devices are employed for such purposes.

The following amendment:

Member States shall ensure that wherever the use of a patented technique is needed for the sole purpose of ensuring conversion of the conventions used in two different computer systems or network so as to allow communication and exchange of data content between them, such use is not considered to be a patent infringement.

looks promising, but it would still allow the abominable GIF patent as a conversion when it is not specifically used for data exchange between computer systems.

We can always hope the MEPs will vote for a directive that prohibits patenting of any software (and the process of running such software) that is intended for general purpose computers, such as operating systems, office suites, data base software etc, etc, in line with the existing EPC. However, I am not too confident that this will happen...

Looks good... (1)

shaka (13165) | more than 10 years ago | (#7023921)

I contacted all Swedish MEPs last time around, and urged a couple of my friends to do the same. I'm really glad to see that is made some difference, especially as I got a bit pessimistic seeing the stance that our Swedish Social Democratic Party took regarding this.
The liberals, however, were on our side. I haven't had time to read through the whole thing, but it looks like the same conclusion that Canada came to.
Go Europe!
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