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EU Moves Towards Single European Patent Standard 234

Posted by michael
from the patent-leather dept.
theodp writes "A European Parliament committee Tuesday moved toward setting the first pan-European standard for software patents, but outlawed the U.S. practice of patenting business methods, such as Amazon's one-click Internet shopping. 'The European law sets the right benchmark rather than the looser U.S. system,' said the director of public policy for Europe at the Business Software Alliance, which represents 20 software companies including Microsoft and Apple. Amazon representatives in Brussels declined to comment on the new European legislation."
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EU Moves Towards Single European Patent Standard

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  • by gammoth (172021) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @06:43PM (#6227107)

    He meant, "the European law sets the right benchmark rather than the loser U.S. system."

    (Yeah, I know. I have no plans to quit my day job.)

  • by dtolton (162216) * on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @06:43PM (#6227112) Homepage
    It sounds like they have learned from some of the mistakes our
    patent system has made.

    Under the European law, software companies would obtain
    exclusive rights only for programs that demonstrate novelty in
    their "technical contribution."


    Their reasoning: "We don't want to arrive at a model where
    in the U.S. everything under the sun can be patented,"


    I think they are approaching this from a better angle. I still
    disagree with the general notion of patenting algorithms as
    such. I don't think algorithms are invented any more than
    mathematical truths are invented, rather they are discovered.
    IMO, there is a difference and a patent shouldn't be granted on
    that. Although, I will admit there is room to disagree with
    that position.

    It looks like they will be avoiding the major abuses we are
    experiencing though, since you can patent a novel approach to
    hand writing recognition, but not hand writing recognition in
    general.

    Now, the question is how do we get the U.S. government to adopt
    this standard? Will it be like the Metric system, where we are
    too entrenched to switch to a better system? Let's hope not for
    our sakes.
    • by Target Drone (546651) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @06:54PM (#6227206)
      Will it be like the Metric system, where we are too entrenched to switch to a better system?

      Considering that the patent office has turned into a revenue source for the government I'd say it's worse.

      • Considering that the patent office has turned into a revenue source for the government I'd say it's worse.

        Every government program is a revenue source, because every government program has the specific effect of expanding the cost, scope, and powers of government. If it wasn't a revenue source, they wouldn't be involved in the first place.

    • by osu-neko (2604) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @06:54PM (#6227208)
      I don't think algorithms are invented any more than mathematical truths are invented, rather they are discovered.

      I entirely agree with this, but I'm not sure if this is the right question to be asking. The question is, is there a benefit to the public to award a time-limited monopoly (aka a patent) for those who bother to go out and discover these things, or isn't there one? If it benefits us, we should do it. If not, we shouldn't. Whether it was a process of invention or discovery is moot if we can somehow encourage addition invention or discovery. But I'm skeptical as to whether the benefits are real, or more substantial than the problems that also ensue...

      • This report [researchoninnovation.org] indicates that software patents (at least in the way they're implemented in the US) are not beneficial to the innovation process at all and that they in fact hamper it.
      • """The question is, is there a benefit to the public to award a time-limited monopoly (aka a patent) for those who bother to go out and discover these things, or isn't there one? If it benefits us, we should do it. If not, we shouldn't."""

        Well the key qustion is, is an awarded monopoly (patent) the only possible benefit you get from discovering things, or are there others too?

        The answer here is easy. I say of course there are a dozend others. Solving a problem, market benefit, social credit, lower costs,
    • I don't think algorithms are invented any more than mathematical truths are invented, rather they are discovered.

      I don't think the right combination of iron parts that make up a ship is invented, rather it is discovered.
      And so on, in all eternity...

      By your logic, nothing is ever invented, but merely discovered. And you are right.
      I agree that they are only discovered, but I also want the person/company who discovers them to benefit from that discovery for a while.

      After all, it probably cost a lot of mone
    • I think they are approaching this from a better angle. I still disagree with the general notion of patenting algorithms as such. I don't think algorithms are invented any more than mathematical truths are invented, rather they are discovered.

      I'm no fan of the lovely US patent system, but I don't know about algorightms being a "mathematical truth" any more than a functioning machine is a "physical truth." One is an implementation of logic, one of physics. Yet no one would fight a patent on a new machine t

      • As I stated, there is room to argue on this point. Most of the difference hinges on definitions. Such as defining the difference between an act of Creation and an act of Discovery. Is it an act of observation, or an act of Imagination? There are some things that if that person had not lived, and had not produced those works (Shakespeare, Mozart) the world likely never would have benefitted from them. There are others that we would have regardless (Electricity, Projectiles). The problem is with those t
    • An equally large, and relevant, problem is the lawsuit culture present in the US. The reason everyone is trying to patent every possible idea no matter how abstract is that it our legal system tolerates lawsuit after lawsuit after lawsuit. Instead of providing relief for a party that has been wronged, it has become a lottery, where the price a patent application could win you a big cash settlement.

      Now I believe that the current patent system is badly broken and in need of a massive overhaul, but how much
    • I don't see any particular reason that mathematical truths shouldn't be patentable, except that they wouldn't make particularly useful patents, since there isn't exactly any way to "use" them in the right sense for the restriction. Unless, of course, they are algorithms. Sure, they're discovered, but so is everything else. The functionality of a steam engine was no less true in 1776 than it is now, but nobody knew to do that then, just like RSA would have worked in 1776 if anyone had tried it. There is no r
      • Actually any computer program is equal to a pure mathematical statement. This actually has practical value because there are automated math thereom proovers. In some cases a program can be translated into a mathematical statement and the program can be proven 100% correct and bug free. Unfortuantely the technique isn't useful on large programs like an operating system, but it is a useful technique.

        So any patent on software is equal to a patent on math.

        Any programmer is perfectly capable of mentally "runni
    • I don't think algorithms are invented any more than mathematical truths are invented, rather they are discovered.

      Thats an interesting argument, imagine if Newton had been able to patent the use of the formulas he discovered ?. At the same time in today's competitive money focused world Newton may not have been able to claim credit for discovery without the patent system.
    • by Sanity (1431) * on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @07:23PM (#6227384) Homepage Journal
      I have been a software engineer for years and even I have no idea what is meant by "technical contribution" - and if you don't know what it is, how can anyone say what it isn't?

      This is a wide-open door through which even the most rediculously obvious software patents could (and therefore will) slip.

      Please please please don't let yourselves think that this is anything other than the EU getting a patent system open to virtually all of the abuses demonstrated in the US.

      I just sent the following to my MEP, find your MEP's email address and contact them NOW before it is too late (people in the UK can find their members here [keele.ac.uk])!:

      Ms Doyle,

      You may recall our recent discussion concerning the dangers of software
      patents for European innovation and competitiveness in software. Apparently,
      the Legal Affairs Committee has now recommended that patents on software
      are to be permitted within the EU - while only paying lip-service to the
      massive threat they present. This will be a collossal blow to smaller
      European software developers as they will be unable to compete with large US
      corporations in the patent land-grab which is sure to follow.

      My question is - what problem are they attempting to fix? Software
      innovation has been just fine without software patents in Europe. The Linux
      computer operating system, which currently runs more web servers than
      Microsoft's Windows software, was developed by volunteers donating their time
      freely. This kind of effort is jeprodised when large software companies like
      Microsoft can use patents on trivial and obvious software processes to crush
      these altruistic development efforts, and Microsoft has stated that they are
      willing to do so.

      It is insufficient to pay lip-service to the problem of patents on trivial
      and obvious techniques, I want to know how exactly this will be prevented.
      Certainly the lesson of the United States is that the patent office will be
      poorly motivated to deny patents on trivial software processes, leaving it up
      to the courts - a process that is much too costly and time-consuming for
      small companies in such a fast moving industry.
      I realise that you are not directly involved in this process, and I am not
      intimitely familiar with the internal workings of the European Parliament,
      but as the CEO of a software company with offices in Leinster I feel that you
      are the appropriate person to whom I should address my concerns.

      If you could refer me to someone more appropriately positioned, I would be
      extremely grateful,

      Kind regards,

      Ian Clarke
      CEO Cematics LLC
      • hope you dont mind me plagerising most of your letter (spelling corrected, names/situations changed) to send to my local scottish MEPs. one of whom (Professor Sir Neil MacCormick) was very much on our side (better remeber to vote for him next time..)

        there is more MEP info here [europarl.org.uk] for people in the UK, and search the same website for rest of europe. i cant believe this proposal passed parliament...

      • This is a wide-open door through which even the most rediculously obvious software patents could (and therefore will) slip.

        This is clearly hyperbolae. The parade of horribles didn't happen in the U.S., it is unlikely to happen in the E.U. The U.S. patent office finally rejects hundreds of applications in software arts every day, and will continue to do so.

        Nothing in the EU proposal permits (and the law actually precludes) the allowance of a patent claim, where the differences betweeen the claim and th
        • This is clearly hyperbolae. The parade of horribles didn't happen in the U.S., it is unlikely to happen in the E.U. The U.S. patent office finally rejects hundreds of applications in software arts every day, and will continue to do so.

          You are trolling right? If not, WAKE UP!! There are US patents on virtually every trivial aspect of software development, to the extent that IBM can (and has) gone to companies and essentially said "you are probably violating one of our patents - pay up!". See here [base.com] for so

    • by GammaTau (636807) <jni@iki.fi> on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @07:32PM (#6227451) Homepage Journal

      It sounds like they have learned from some of the mistakes our patent system has made.

      No, we haven't learned from your mistakes, I'm afraid. Before EU started gathering together the directive, some countries, including Finland where I live, had no software patents at all.

    • by autopr0n (534291) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @08:34PM (#6228063) Homepage Journal
      I don't think algorithms are invented any more than mathematical truths are invented, rather they are discovered.

      Well, every invention is just a 'discovery' in some sense. I mean, take for example child-proof caps for medicine. Someone 'discovered' there was a way to make a cap that wouldn't open unless pushed. Someone 'discovered' that making a tire in a certain shape would pull water off the ground and make driving safer. Someone 'discovered' that you could setup transistors in a certain way to make double data rate DRAM. All of these are discoveries as much as something like realizing that you could delete audio information that would be filtered out by the brain as a way to save space.

      The important thing in my mind is to filter out the 'obvious' things from the truly innovative. It's 'obvious' to use base-64 encoding in DNS for international domain names. 1-click shopping is 'obvious', etc.
    • by lvd (72565)
      This ./ article is very misleading

      All the juri rapporteur and the European commission have done is to cloud the issue in confusion.

      At the heart of the proposal lies a text that makes /everything under the sun/ be patentable, just as in the US, as long as a computer is somehow involved.

      The effect of the cloud of confusion is to make people think that actually the EU has a more restrictive system than the US, but patent lawyers will know better.

      'technical contribution' is completely undefined and the clea
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @06:44PM (#6227117)
    'The European law sets the right benchmark rather than the looser U.S. system,'
    Am I the only one who misread this as the loser U.S. system?
  • I like it! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by suteri (637146) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @06:44PM (#6227118)
    outlawed the U.S. practice of patenting business methods, such as Amazon's one-click Internet shopping

    Perhaps the EU parliament (or whatever) isn't as useless after all. Though what will become out of this pan-European system in a few years? Let's keep our fingers crossed..

    • Re:I like it! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by infolib (618234)
      Unfortunately for you, the blurb and the article fell for the propaganda tricks of one of the more useful (to whom?) members of the Parliament.
    • Well before this most countries did not have software patneten so no its quite the opposit.

      Its a sad day for free software.

      The law is not much different in practice from the current American system.

  • 1.0 is never perfect (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kin_korn_karn (466864) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @06:45PM (#6227132) Homepage
    The US patent system was the first of its kind. The first version of anything is never the best version.

    I just wish our government was less like those people that claim engine design peaked in the early 70s. (there are lots of them in the south)
    • by dtolton (162216) * on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @06:50PM (#6227170) Homepage
      Business method patents weren't added until the late 1990's. In fact our patent and copyright system has gone through extensive changes to make it less beneficial IMO. I would argue in fact that version 1.0 was *far* more desireable than what we have now.

      Laws are not like software. Software gets better with time, Laws and regulations often go the other direction.
    • >The first version of anything is never the best version.

      yup! but you could also say that the second version of anything is never the best version. The third version is!! er, wait.. the fourth is! ...er... never mind.
    • by wfberg (24378) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @07:37PM (#6227509)

      The US patent system was the first of its kind. The first version of anything is never the best version.

      The following is (c) wikipedia, GNU Free Documentation License.

      Patents originated in England with the Statute of Monopolies 1693 under King James I of England. Prior to this time, the King could issue letters patent providing any person with a monopoly to produce particular goods or provide particular services. This power was widely abused; thus Parliament restricted it through the Statute of Monopolies so that the King could only issue them to the inventors of original inventions for a fixed number of years. Section 6 of the Statute refers to "manner[s] of new manufacture...[by] inventors", and this section remains the foundation for patent law in England and Australia. The Statute of Monopolies was latter developed by the courts to produce modern patent law; this innovation was soon copied by other countries.

      You know, there already were laws prior to the Declaration of Independence and the drafting of the Constitution..
      • by sl956 (200477) * on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @08:36PM (#6228075)

        The US patent system was the first of its kind.
        Patents originated in England with the Statute of Monopolies 1693 under King James I of England.
        ...while the first USian patent statute was passed on April 5, 1790, by the Congress of the twelve United States and signed into law on April 10 by the President.

        But the concept of patent appeared about 500 B.C. in the Greek colony of Sybaris. The Sybarites, who enjoyed living in luxury, made a law that if any confectioner or cook should invent any peculiar and excellent dish, no other artist was allowed to make this dish for one year. He who invented it was entitled to all the profit to be derived from the manufacture of it for that time.

        On a side note, the earliest English letter patent known is dated April 3, 1449. It was granted to John of Utynam for his art of making colored glass.

        • AhHa! The patent system was sane at one time. 1 year sounds reasonable. So WTF happened? Why do we become so stupid after eons of evolution? Is this how we are evolving?
      • Parent never heard of google? Here is a link to a short history of patents:
        Patent History, USA and Europe [about.com]
  • Could someone please mention where patents on web based applications or "business-models" ( a cookie?) are actually valid?

    Does a patent on a web technology apply to where the server is operating, who owns it or who's using it?
  • by 56ker (566853) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @06:47PM (#6227150) Homepage Journal
    A piece of software is covered under copyright laws - the same way a piece of art or music is. If the EU go the route of the US in allowing software patents it damages software development in the long term.
  • hurray for europeans!!! first they gave us culture, then they gave us linux, now they give us some common sense
    • Actually the middle east gave us culture first. Credit where its due
      • Most of what we would call western culture originated in Greece. Apart from inventing culture in the first place, the main contribution of the mohammedans was protecting it from the rise of catholicism.
  • not all good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AndrewRUK (543993) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @06:50PM (#6227167)
    Unfortunatly, this report, from the Legal Affairs committee, does support software patents, ignoring the advice of the Industry committee, the Culture committee, and the vast majority of the response to their public consultation on the issue. Luckily, there is still time, as it has to pass the European parliament before coming EU law. So, to all European slashdotters, please make sure to contact your MEP about it (in a coherant, non-loony way) and explain why software patents are bad.
    • I second this.

      They do reply, too. I got a personal response from one of my MEPs to an email within half an hour. Not all of them are this clued-up (I'm sure not all of them even have e-mail addresses), but some of them will be.

      But you don't have to email them - you can write to them, too.

      If you don't know who your MEPs are, or how to contact them, go here [upmystreet.com] and enter your postcode. Look for the "Your Representives" section, and click on the "More information and contact details" link.
    • Re:not all good (Score:5, Interesting)

      by 3247 (161794) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @08:22PM (#6227961) Homepage
      Unfortunatly, this report, from the Legal Affairs committee, does support software patents, ignoring the advice of the Industry committee, the Culture committee, and the vast majority of the response to their public consultation on the issue.
      ...or everyone else who does not have any clue.

      Although the European Patent Convention (EPC) says that "programs for computers" are not patentable whereas the (draft) Directive explicitly says that "computer-implemented inventions" are (art. 52), there is actually no difference:
      The EPC was never meant to prevent patents on computer-implemented inventions; the clause that prevents patent on "computer programmes" simply has no effect -- patent lawyers agree that they are either "technical" (and patentable) or "non-technical" (and not patentable). Unlike the US patent system, the European patent system only protects "technical" inventions.

      Patents on "technical" computer programmes are not that bad -- after all, they are technical inventions that just happen to be implemented with computers.

      The real problem is that patent offices tend to view all computer software as "technical" because a computer is technical. This results in patents on algorithms, business methods, etc. that just happen to be implemented with computers.

      The draft EU Directive does a lot to clarify this: It says several times that computer programmes are not technical just because they run on a computer. It also says that algorithms are not patentable and that a patent on a technical invention that uses an algorithm does not cover the algorithm itself (yeah, the Yahoo editor obviously did not read the documents [eu.int]; s/he even got the date wrong: 2003-06-16 was Monday, not Tuesday).
      The rationale clearly says that they don't want algorithms and business models to be convered.

      These clarifications will actually result in less software patents because all the bogous software patents that are not patents on computer-implemented technical inventions but on computer-implemented algorithms, business models, etc., are now so clearly outlawed by the explicit text of the Directive that every patent officer should get it.
      • Although the European Patent Convention (EPC) says that "programs for computers" are not patentable whereas the (draft) Directive explicitly says that "computer-implemented inventions" are (art. 52), there is actually no difference:

        The EPC was never meant to prevent patents on computer-implemented inventions; the clause that prevents patent on "computer programmes" simply has no effect -- patent lawyers agree that they are either "technical" (and patentable) or "non-technical" (and not patentable).

        Not

    • http://www.greens-efa.org/en/press/detail.php?id= 1 445&lg=en [greens-efa.org]

      Bruxelles/Brussel, 17 June 2003,

      Patent vote fails Europe's software programmers

      Unlimited patents will be disastrous for the European software industry and SMEs

      The Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament today adopted a report that allows for the unlimited patenting of software which will, in one swoop, entrench the market dominance of multinational companies, force small software firms out of business and bring to an end the

    • by JPMH (100614)
      http://www.aful.org/wws/arc/patents/2003-06/msg00 0 78.html [aful.org]

      * From: Hartmut Pilch <phm@xxxxxx>
      * To: news@xxxxxxxx, <patents@xxxxxxxx>
      * Subject: McCarthy wins in JURI
      * Date: Tue, 17 Jun 2003 13:04:55 +0200 (CEST)

      The JURI vote was delayed by 2 hours. Our little conference was thereby made impossible. Around 13.00 the voting was pushed through in 20 minutes, and McCarthy won a majority on all points, which means

      - introduction of program claims
      - refusal of interoperability p

    • The Culture and Industry committees were well aware of the possible economic and cultural dangers of software patents, and took care to flag them up by proposing the following recital, amendment ITRE-3.

      (As well as the main legal articles, European directives contain "recitals", which outline the broad policy goals, are can be used by courts for guidance on how to interpret the articles).

      McCarthy specifically recommended, and got, a vote against the amendment.

      "While software plays an importa

    • I'm generally in favour of the Euro and indeed of closer integration with Europe, but the introduction of software patents is terrifying.

      So, when you mail your MEP, send a cc to the Sun (talkback@the-sun.co.uk) or other newspaper. Make sure that a layman can understand what you're saying. Having a journalist stand in front of them asking difficult questions will have more effect than simply recieving an email or two.

  • by heli0 (659560) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @06:50PM (#6227173)
    Amazon Tuesday patented the first pan-European standard for software patents. European representatives in Brussels declined to comment on the new Amazon patent.
  • by theonetruekeebler (60888) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @06:52PM (#6227191) Homepage Journal
    ...is the software industry leaving the U.S. in droves for less litigious countries.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      ...that will tax them into the poor house while imposing such strict employer rules such that no employee can ever be fired and all employees can only work 35 hours weeks.

      The giant sucking sound is air rushing into the vacuum that is your skull. Your post is complete nonsense.
      • Which obviously is a very good deal for 99,9% of the people which are employees.

        Remember why businesses exist in the first place (subtle hint as you're probably american, it's NOT to make a profit)
      • ...that no employee can ever be fired

        Can you give some sources for that? Sorry, never heard of these laws.

        all employees can only work 35 hours weeks.

        That's a French law, AFAIK all EU countries have different laws. Besides, I think 35 hours/week is a good idea. Creates jobs, employees more productive, employees have more free time, which means they have more occasion to spend money and make economy run.
        • My father works for a French aircraft manufacturer, and from what I've heard French employers despise hiring people, because once you've hired someone, getting rid of them is very expensive.

          Having someone work 1 hour overtime is equally painful, let alone having someone come in Sunday evening to fix a Mission Critical System being used in other parts of the world.

          I don't have anything against a 35 hour/week. Hell, I'm working a 30 hour/week, 4 days/week and I love it, but I would hate to see if g
      • Funny, American companies in the EU have no problem keeping their divisions profitable within the EU's pro-employee and long vacation laws.

        There's nothing magical about either system, there are just different ways of doing things. A good business adapts to its environment be it the market or local labor laws. A bad business is one that can't adapt and "needs" more government-mandated "pro-business" legislation like the US habitually gives out.
    • Maybe not (Score:3, Interesting)

      by f97tosc (578893)
      ...is the software industry leaving the U.S. in droves for less litigious countries.

      but...

      ...you can still develop IP-incompliant software for less litigous countries in the US

      ...you can still develop IP-compliant software for the US in less litigious countries



      Software development is a global business. Changes in one market affects development everywhere, not just developers that happen to live in that market.

      Tor
    • ...is the software industry leaving the U.S. in droves for less litigious countries.

      No, that's actually the sound of U.S. software jobs going to places where coders go for $9/hr.

      Anyway, your comment doesn't really make all that much sense. Software patents would be beneficial commercial software companies that produce things that haven't been thought of before, but could cause problems for open-source re-implementation.
  • by TechLawyer (182030) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @06:52PM (#6227195)
    So rather than claiming a business method, European applicants will simply claim software useful in implementing a business method, while never actually using the words "business" or "method." For a skilled practitioner, the new EU guidelines don't seem to put up much in the way of a barrier.
  • BIG Mistake (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NigelJohnstone (242811) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @06:54PM (#6227207)
    Cute how its dressed up, but its telling that its the big players that want to lock themselves in with Patents who are backing this.

    We had the most innovative time when there were no patents and lockins. Now the software market is dead, because the OS vendor locks the market down. Giving them more lock down tools in the form of patents is death for applications software.

    No applications are developed, nothing new is in the market and it has nothing to do with patents, and everything to do with market lock.

  • by Zemran (3101) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @07:02PM (#6227260) Homepage Journal
    That must have been hard to sort out... :)
  • Amen. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by HansKloss (665474)
    "We don't want to arrive at a model where in the U.S. everything under the sun can be patented," said Ilias Konteas of the Union of Industrial and Employers' Confederations of Europe
  • Not good (Score:5, Informative)

    by DGolden (17848) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @07:38PM (#6227512) Homepage Journal
    This is not actually good news, despite the spin. Software patents are absurd, and this still basically hands Big American Corporations (TM) the European software industry on a plate.

    On the sorta-plus side, in the long term, the very concept of I.P. might be pushed closer to collapsing under its own weight. The USA and now the EU are deluding themselves if they think that China will continue to honour Western I.P. laws for ever. To echo a post on /. a while back - I find it scary that the West is busy building castles of I.P. in the sky, while its native manufacturing base is dissolved. When all the West "has" is information,less than pieces of paper and infinitely copyable, and the billions in India and China have all the factories, then we'll see how much real value I."P". has.

  • by infolib (618234) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @07:39PM (#6227531)
    The Yahoo story and the slashdot blurb have both been (intentionally) misled. Under this directive anything "technical" can be patented. [ffii.org] Programs running on a computer are technical. Business methods implemented "with a computer network" are technical.

    In the future, european businesses will compete, not on programming, but on paying patent lawyers. Remember: just because you wrote a program yourself doesn't mean you'll be allowed to distribute it. The result? Punishing innovation. [ffii.org]
    • The Yahoo story and the slashdot blurb have both been (intentionally) misled. Under this directive anything "technical" can be patented. Programs running on a computer are technical. Business methods implemented "with a computer network" are technical.

      Well, you seem to have found the problem. But you obviously have not read the report from the Parl. Committee [eu.int] [PDF].
      That report says so often that a computer programme shall not be patentable just because it runs on a computer that you could call it paranoid

      • But on page 18 of the report, second paragraph near the end, it says "The rapporteur's amendments would also very clearly exclude the grant for patents for noninventive business methods." (emphasis mine). So it seems he does/did not intend to banish patents on business methods in general at all.
  • by sl956 (200477) * on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @07:45PM (#6227599)

    The European Commission has proposed to override the current clear and uniform European patentability rules (Art 52 EPC: "mathematical methods, schemes and rules for mental activity, methods of doing business and programs for computers are not patentable inventions") and replace them by a confusing set of nationally implementable rules which authorise patenting of algorithms and business methods, as it has been practised at the European Patent Office (EPO), openly since 1998 and more or less covertly since 1986.

    The "European Parliament committee" cited in the article is the European Parliament's Commission on Legal Affairs and the Internal Market (JURI). Some members of this comittee submitted amendments to the European Commission's software patent directive proposal. While some Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are asking to bring the directive in line with Art 52 EPC so as to clearly restate that programs for computers are not patentable inventions, another group of MEPs is endorsing the EPO's recent practice of unlimited patentability, shrouded in more or less euphemistic wordings.

    What happened Tuesday is the vote of some pro-software-patenting amendements by the JURI. Theese amendments will now be presented to the plenary of the European Perliament for decision during the first week of either july or september.

    It's definitely VERY BAD news.

    This site [ffii.org] summarizes the situation and the efforts from all around Europe to fight software patenting.

  • Yes, I know people who met tonight for that very purpose. I was too far away, and anyway, I didn't feel like.

    After all, when patents claiming all automatized medical diagnosis [ffii.org] got through the old system (when illegal), how would you defend yourself against lawsuits now that every idea somehow involving a computer is explicitly patentable? [ffii.org]

    Not to mention that all commercial developers will have to pay IBM et.al. to avoid million-dollar-lawsuits. No wonder that innovation dwindles [ffii.org]
  • by f97tosc (578893) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @07:52PM (#6227698)
    Since I am trying to patent some stuff right now, I actually know a thing or two about patents. I'll try to straighten out some of the questionmarks and misconceptions that seem prevalient.

    In Europe, the patents can be issued for the entire union from the central office. This is much more expensive than in the US, primarily because everything has to get professional, technical transaltions into three langauges. However, even though the patents are issued for the entire EU, they are actually enforced locally in each country. Different European countries have different criteria and standards, the same patent may very well be ruled to apply in one country but not in another. I think the article deals with some guidlines regarding software and business methods; I don't believe it will change the overall picture and it should be seen in that context.

    Some quick points about software and business methods in the US. In general, for these to be patentable, they must fulfill the following (these are some of the important conditions in lay mans terms):
    -It must be new, in other words no records that anyone has ever done it before
    -It must provide a tangible benefit - pure mathematics or very abstract and general algorithms do not work
    -It cannot be obvious, even to professionals in the field
    -The inventor must demonstrate that he or she actually knows how to implement it (preferably by doing so)
    - The patent is only valid for the implementation that the inventor describes

    These are actually quite reasonable conditions, wouldn't you say? I have not read the infamous one-click shopping patent, but note that generally speaking it is not possible to patent "shopping by only one click", you have to describe how you do it, and the patent is only valid for that implementation. Of course, sometimes it is possible to be quite general in the description, such as "save the customer's info in a memory, recognize customer by a cookie, initiate transaction based on saved data when customer clicks shopping button". On top of that the one-click patent is questionable from the obviousness criterium.

    I wish to point out, however, that the set of patents that get discussed on Slashdot are the examples of extreme outliers when it comes to obviousness and generality. Frequently they are also misunderstood and exagerated, either by the original magazine, the story submitter or both.

    For example, a few weeks ago there was a story on Amazon patenting selling used items next to new ones. A dozen people got 5, insightful ratings for pointing out how crazy this was. In fact, the patent only covered a specific technique of soliciting new sellers (or something similar).

    Tor
    • You are correct. /. is always over-reacting to anything involving patents and the fact is, most posters know nothing about patents anyway, so why are they commenting.
    • These are actually quite reasonable conditions, wouldn't you say? I have not read the infamous one-click shopping patent, but note that generally speaking it is not possible to patent "shopping by only one click", you have to describe how you do it, and the patent is only valid for that implementation.

      Here is the one-click patent [uspto.gov]. It's pretty broad:

      1. A method of placing an order for an item comprising:
      under control of a client system,
      displaying information identifying the item; and
      in response to onl


      • Here is the one-click patent. It's pretty broad:

        1. A method of placing an order for an item comprising:
        under control of a client system,
        displaying information identifying the item; and in response to only a single action being performed, sending a request to order the item along with an identifier of a purchaser of the item to a server system;
        under control of a single-action ordering component of the server system, receiving the request;
        retrieving additional information previously stored for the purc
      • What about software patents that cannot be patented in the EU at this time, but which already apply in the US?

        Will companies be able to apply for these patents as soon as software patents are allowed in the EU? Wouldn't that technically be considered prior art in the EU?
        • what you do is one of two things, file an application in the epo and USTPo at the same time, or file a PCT application to establish an earlier priority date, then you have 3 years to file an application in any PCT member country.

          Filing an application on a patent already issued in europe after its issue date wont work in the US.

  • Oh no (Score:3, Funny)

    by CausticWindow (632215) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @07:55PM (#6227737)

    Chilling effects for Europe. This must be bad indeed. They have no sense of personal freedom. They are drones. They have no sacred to God constitution like ourselves.

    Poor bastards.

  • That should read:

    'The European law sets the right benchmark rather than the loser U.S. system,'

    MadCow.
  • I don't see why people are in such a tizzy over software patents around here. "They can be reduced to a mathematical formula!" you cry, but so what? Name something patentable that can't, which can be reduced to formulas describing the shape and motion.
  • by infolib (618234) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @08:32PM (#6228037)
    1) Make sure you don't infringe patents, like
    "Use of hyperlinks in a computer program for an automation application and programmed computer for such an application" [espacenet.com]
    "Method and system including a server, client-terminal, computer and computer program, delivering sound data" [espacenet.com]
    "A computer system and a program install method thereof" [espacenet.com]

    2) When you've found the 100 or so patents your program-to-be infringes, get a deal with all the inventors. (If some of them are slippery, you can probably "invent around" their claim in a couple of months)
    3) Pay IBM for not starting a lawsuit you can't afford
    4) (Minor step) Write your program
    5) Sell it (hoping you won't be victim of a submarine patent)
    6) PROFIT!!! (for your lawyer)

    Nahhh, on the other hand, just drop developing, and become lawyer yourself (or take advantage of our generous social system, if being a "productive member of the society" is not your cup of tea)
  • See this petition [debian.org] signed by the leading European computer scientists, including Robin Milner (Turing Award) and Géraud Sénizergues (Godel Award):

    The message is in Catalan, but contains the full text of the petition in English with list of signatories. The petition explicitly warns against claims that only patents with "technical contribution" will be granted, when the practice of the patent office has opened the door to anything being considered technical.

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