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Re: [Fsfe-uk] Gowers (on software patents)

From: Alex Hudson
Subject: Re: [Fsfe-uk] Gowers (on software patents)
Date: Wed, 06 Dec 2006 14:07:57 +0000

I think it's worth expanding on:

>       * "Maintain policy of not extending patent rights beyond their
>         present limits within the areas of software, business methods
>         and genes." - this is an important principle!!

The report says this, in detail:

4.114    There have been calls in the UK to introduce pure computer
software patents to ensure that innovation is properly protected and
encouraged. In Europe, patents are not granted for computer programs as
such, but patents have been granted to computer-based innovations
provided they have a technical effect. In the USA, pure computer
software patents can be granted. The evidence on the success of pure
computer software patents is mixed. The software industry in the USA
grew exponentially without pure software patents, suggesting they are
not necessary to promote innovation. The evidence suggests software
patents are used strategically; that is, to prevent competitors from
developing in a similar field, rather than to incentivise innovation.

4.115 In addition to the concerns that increased protection does not
increase incentives, some have commented that pure software patents do
not meet the criteria for patentability. The most profound problem with
using patent law to protect software is that innovation in the field is
usually accomplished in increments too small to be viewed as inventive
steps. Several submissions to the Call for Evidence, for example the
Professional Contractors Group’s submission, argued that software should
not be patentable in principle. Where freelance businesses develop
software, they rely on copyright to protect it. This protection is free
and automatic. The copying of as little as 1.7 per cent of a program’s
code has in the past been found to be infringement of copyright.

4.116    Introducing pure software patents could raise the costs for
small software developers to mitigate against risks surrounding R&D,
thereby inflating the capital needs of software development. Sun
Microsystems argued that without exceptions that allowed for reverse
engineering for interoperability, pure software patents could stifle

4.117    Last year, the European Parliament rejected the Computer
Implemented Inventions Directive, but this issue has been raised again.
The economic evidence suggests that such patents have done little to
raise incentives to innovate, and other evidence suggests that the
introduction of such patents will have a chilling effect on innovation.
In the absence of such evidence, a new right for pure software patents
should not be introduced, and so the scope of patentability should not
be extended to cover computer programs as such.



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