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Poland Blocks European Software Patent Vote, For Now 372

Posted by timothy
from the goalie's-end-run dept.
Anonymous Brave Guy writes "Thanks to the Polish Minister of Science and Information Technology, Wlodzimierz Marcinski, Europe has dropped the current proposal for software patents. He made a special journey to Brussels to withdraw the proposal, basically in protest at the way the patents were being pushed through by the back door. Since the European presidency is about to pass to Luxembourg, this has effectively killed the idea, at least for the immediate future." More at FFII (Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure). This means that the promised move to delay actually worked.
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Poland Blocks European Software Patent Vote, For Now

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  • Well (Score:5, Funny)

    by Silvertre (472395) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:21AM (#11158547)
    at least slashdot didn't forget about poland. :)
    • unwell (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Doc Ruby (173196)
      Poland hasn't forgotten the debates, either - they've pulled out of Iraq. What kind of America makes Poland look like compassionate conservatives?
    • Re:Well (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Metteyya (790458)
      Actually, for the first time in a few years I'm really proud to be Polish.
  • EU pressure? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jinjuro (523623) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:24AM (#11158593) Journal
    Maybe the EU saying no to software patents will have some sort of influence on the US. Especially if people in Europe could make it a point of contention.
    • Re:EU pressure? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by M3rk1n_Muffl3y (833866) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:38AM (#11158746)
      Well, let's hope they have more influence on software patents than they've had on greenhouse gas emission reductions and foreign policy.
    • Re:EU pressure? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by NoOneInParticular (221808) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:57AM (#11158973)
      Oh, it will make an impact on the US. If software patents are completely banned from the EU, it will be very difficult for US companies to compete on EU soil.

      First of all, European companies can obtain software patents in the US, thereby effectively eliminating possible competition from that part of the world, while establishing a market in the EU. Once these companies make the move over, they've got their protection through the USPTO racket scheme.

      Second. US companies respecting the software patents of other US companies will not be able to develop products based on these patents (unless cross-licensing is in place), quite obviously. This will give them a huge disadvantage when trying to bring products to Europe: they won't be able to use particular techniques their local competitors in EU markets will be able to use, and all stuff they have protection for over in the US can be copied by this local competition.

      So my guess is that when US companies are starting to hurt from this both inside the US and outside of it, there's going to be some reconsideration of patent law.

    • I would certainly hope for such influence. All software patents I've seen are invalid under US Supreme Court precedent [brlewis.com], but the USPTO and lower courts seem really confused.
  • Thank Poland! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by geegs (744247) * on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:24AM (#11158595)
    EU readers please Thank Poland [thankpoland.info]!
  • Good - For Now (Score:2, Informative)

    by Neronix (796238)
    Good news for everyone, all we need to do is stop it completely and see if we can get the rest of the world to follow suit. Respect to the EFF, FFII and other organisations involved.

    Time for the obligatory troll - 7th post =P
  • by Pecisk (688001) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:27AM (#11158617)
    It was quite a surprise, and thanks God - it is done. Of coarse, they (we know who they are) will try again and again, but in fact that they lost it second time, so I think they will eventually run out of arguments if they will try it next time.

    Thanks to open source, free software and small IT business advocates and lobbies who made it happen, everyone who tried to provide insightful information to diplomats and goverments.

    Thank you :)
  • by Christian Engstrom (633834) <`es.teitraptarip ... tsgne.naitsirhc'> on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:27AM (#11158623) Homepage
    The excellent site NoSoftwarePatent.com [nosoftwarepatents.com] also has a good account of what happened [nosoftwarepatents.com].

    This may be only a temporary reprieve, but it could also, quite possibly, be a sign that the tides may be changing in the Council. Let's all hope for the best, and do what we can to make it happen.

    • ... is the important part. I think we should view this as a second chance and get the finger out. We need to donate to organisations fighting this and make polite contact with our policitians.

      I was going to say "we (Europeans)" but since this could influence the US then we should do what we can while there's still something we can do.

  • Thank you Poland. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xirtam_work (560625) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:27AM (#11158625)
    I for one am grateful to our Polish voting overlords.

    It's about time one of the countries in Europe had a government with a spine. I'm from the UK and ours doesn't, unless it's about introducing draconian ID card measures without listening to anyone and ignoring any consultation it required and dismissing it as irrelivant.

    Go POLAND!!!
  • by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:31AM (#11158664) Homepage Journal
    In other news, Canada reports many cancellations of immigration requests from EU citizens...
    • Re:In Other News... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Rod Beauvex (832040)
      Are there software patents in Canada?
      • Re:In Other News... (Score:3, Informative)

        by gnuman99 (746007)
        Are there software patents in Canada?

        Yes. *But* there are a lot less lawsuits in Canada and a lot less software patents. The later probably because the market is small. The former probably because you pay for defence of one you sue if you lose. Oh, and the judges tend to throw stuff out that is just frivolous (ie. judges are not elected here, they are appointed so they don't need money from corps. to help them get their jobs :P

        • Just as an FYI... here's a short list of 'prominent' Canadian IT companies.

          Research in Motion (RIM)
          Nortel
          Corel
          ATI
          Matrox
          Celestica
          OpenText
          Hummingbird

          Generally speaking Canadian companies that have software offerings tied to hardware sales do better than pure software plays (e.g. Corel). For a country roughly the size of California population-wise, its has a fairly decent domestic industry.
          Since Canada does the vast majority of its trade with the US though, more progressive software patent laws d
  • by hsmith (818216) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:34AM (#11158695)
    i say: damn it!
  • Go Poland (Score:5, Interesting)

    by finkployd (12902) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:36AM (#11158724) Homepage
    That is twice now they hav saved Europe's ass. Being the first to break the German's Enigma machine and now this.

    Granted in the whole scheme of things, that first one might have been a little more important.

    So I never understood this, why does Poland seem to end up being the butt of jokes? Or is that just a US thing?
    • Only Twice? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by krysith (648105) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:49AM (#11158881) Journal
      Uh, I think you forgot about the Battle of Warsaw [wikipedia.org], where Poland really saved Europe!

      "Over the corpse of White Poland lies the road to worldwide conflagration." - General Tukhachevsky, Red Army, 1920.
    • I think there will be always jokes about countries which people don't understand or haven't seen or their language or behaveur is strange (from our point of view). There is nothing wrong with that as long it is not over the top - we, Latvians, almost every time make jokes about Estonians - and I bet they do that do about us. And it is fun ;)

      However, I haven't heard lot of jokes about Poland or polish people, so it could be just a US thingy ;)
    • by Anonymous Coward
      > That is twice now they hav saved Europe's ass.

      Nah this story's a dupe from yesterday ;-)
    • by 16K Ram Pack (690082) <tim.almond @ g mail.com> on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @12:03PM (#11159044) Homepage
      That is twice now they hav saved Europe's ass. Being the first to break the German's Enigma machine and now this.

      Double-check your Hollywood History of the World, dude. You'll find it was a bunch of Americans.

      • That is twice now they hav saved Europe's ass. Being the first to break the German's Enigma machine and now this.
        Double-check your Hollywood History of the World, dude. You'll find it was a bunch of Americans.


        Look who's talking.
        It was a Polish guy named Rejewski who first cracked it (partly). Other countries (including Germany) tought it was impossible, so they didn't even try. Rejewski's breaktrough was not enough, tough, and Poland cooperated with the French, who had inside information from a German
    • Here in England we make jokes about the Irish (and, to a lesser extent, the Scottish and French).


      • The real question is...

        Who do the Poles make fun of?

        • Re:Go Poland (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Last time I visited there (1994), the answer to your question would be: the police, the Russians and other eastern bordering nationalities. Haven't been there since, so I can't tell you if the situation has changed.
    • Re:Go Poland (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Markvs (17298) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @12:08PM (#11159097) Journal
      Don't forget Poland & Jan Sobieski III in 1683 at Vienna -- Europe could be Islamic today!

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Vienna

      "At about 5 in the afternoon, four cavalry groups, one of them German-Austrian and the other three Polish heavy cavalry (Hussars), 20,000 men in all, charged down the hills led personally by the Polish king.
      In the confusion, they made straight for the Ottoman camps, while the Vienna garrison sallied out of its defenses and joined in the assault. In less than three hours, the battle was won, as the Turks beat a hasty retreat to the south and east. Although no one realized it at the time, the entire war was won that day, as well. The Ottomans fought on for another 16 years before giving up, losing vast territories in the process."
    • Polish jokes (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I remember as a child in the 70's that Polish jokes were a lot more popular. The US always had a lot of Polish immigrants and if you don't know Polish, their names appeared pretty weird to us. They also tended to work a lot of jobs like coal mining where you don't have to have a college degree to be there.
      So I'm guessing that 1) weird names that aren't pronounced (in English!) like they are spelled 2) make mistakes when they speak English, like dropping definite articles, because their language doesn't h
      • I also grew up listening to Polish jokes...mostly relating to them being stupid, or having no sense of color coordination. I don't recall them ever being told in any spiteful way, just as an attempt at ethnic humor. Frequently, I'd here the best ones from my Polish aunt, and later a Polish roommate. As I got older, and travelled more, I discovered that I heard many of the same jokes being told about other groups...Newfies (sp?) in Canada for example, or more recently hearing them told as "dumb blonde" jo
        • Re:Polish jokes (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Bob Lambeau (767081)
          Up here in the upper Midwest (for me and a lot of people being Polish) the Dumb Polack (DP) jokes ended Dec. 13 1981.
          I heard a couple a day or two later but it really came to a halt with that. I don't know what it was like on the east cost, but here it was like just being a Pol meant your WERE and always would be stupid
          Thank You Gen. Jaruzelski
  • Why Poland ? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MosesJones (55544) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:37AM (#11158734) Homepage

    Its unlikely that Poland would have done this as a pure solo effort, for fear of a backlash. There must have been others behind the scene agreeing with the position, with Poland making the defiant stance.

    Does this mean that Poland acted as the front for a number of smaller countries. Or did a politician REALLY make a stand based on principle against all commers.

    • Re:Why Poland ? (Score:3, Informative)

      by RWerp (798951)
      It was mostly because of internal pressure from Polish Free Software movement and IT professionals, concerned that software patents would kill Polish emerging IT industry. Poland didn't stand out when it knew it could not change the outcome --- when it came out we can break the majority, we stood out.

      However, Poland will not block the directive indefinitely. As soon as some changes are made to accomodate Poland's concerns (mostly lack of clarity in the directive), Poland is going to vote "yes" for the dir
    • I have to agree with you, but I think it was just a bunch of small countries waited for some hero to appear - AFAIK Estonia, Latvia, Lithuenia (aka Baltic States, I'm from Latvia) was against proposal, but didn't have much political honesty and courage to suggest to stop this maddness. I guess your theory is also supported by that no one objected that Poland blocked patent proposal in this meeting. That means that even proponents don't have any kind of big illusions to get it trough such way.
    • Re:Why Poland ? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by e6003 (552415)
      Apparently (according to the nosoftwarepatents.com link posted earlier) FFII Poland has been particularly active in helping Polish ministers to understand the issues. It could also help that Poland has no real hi-tech industry of its own (AFAIK) to lobby FOR patents but may see its future economic growth as being in that direction. I'm still angry with my own (UK) Government for refusing to listen and blatantly following the UK Patent Office's agenda (the UKPO has been one of the strongest pushers FOR sof
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Intriguing. So this is what they mean by government for the people. I've never seen that before (being a citizen of government for the big corporation).
  • Great day :-) (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jugalator (259273) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:42AM (#11158799) Journal
    He made a special journey to Brussels to withdraw the proposal, basically in protest at the way the patents were being pushed through by the back door

    Cool, someone got it.

    Here's hoping this action by Poland will make MORE clueless ministers go "huh? why did he feel it so necessary to stop that" and actually start reading up on the subject.

    I fear the software giants will bring up this over and over again as long as EU says "no" though. :-/
  • Sweet (Score:5, Funny)

    by Lord Kano (13027) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:45AM (#11158826) Homepage Journal
    Now Polish people get to tell EU jokes.

    LK
  • by lxs (131946) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:52AM (#11158903)
    Microsoft loses it's appeal, software patents are blocked, and satan just called to ask if he could borrow my skates.
  • What other than software can be both copyrighted and patented?
    • Can software be patented?

      IANAL, but I thought that ideas were patented (such as an alogorithm, or 1 click shopping (groan), or a process to do something in a (supposedly) novel way). . . (I know, there are other things that can be patented but I don't think that software was one of them) Ideas that are implemented in software can be protected by patent so that another person cannot implement the same protected idea in another piece of software . . . but this protection of the idea, not the software.

      Softw

      • The USPTO's explanation of what is patentable [uspto.gov] says,

        A patent cannot be obtained upon a mere idea or suggestion. The patent is granted upon the new machine, manufacture, etc., as has been said, and not upon the idea or suggestion of the new machine. A complete description of the actual machine or other subject matter for which a patent is sought is required.

        Arguments that a computer with a new program running in it is essentially a new machine have been rejected by the US Supreme Court, but accepted by

    • I think the hot drink cup I used recently had a patented material, a copyrighted paint job, a trademarked logo, and contained a trade secret beverage. Software is unusual in that the aspects covered by copyright are important to its function, so it is easier to conflate the techniques by which the software works with the particular implementation in use.
  • by StateOfTheUnion (762194) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @11:53AM (#11158928) Homepage
    Since the European presidency is about to pass to Luxembourg, this has effectively killed the idea, at least for the immediate future.

    Considering the fact that the Dutch hold the EU presidency for the remainder of the year (to be replaced by Lux. next year), is there any evidence that the Lux. presidency will take a different approach? I haven't been following the more subtle aspects of this issue, but Lux. is part of the Benelux trio (Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg) that often ally themselves for leverage against some of the larger EU countries. Is it likely that Lux. will take a different stance on this issue or continue down the same path?

  • by Lodragandraoidh (639696) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @12:00PM (#11158997) Journal
    Given the recent bittorrent raids in Europe at the behest of the MPAA etc..

    What agreements are there between Europe and the U.S. concerning patent law?

    I know the Berne Conventions have established parity between the U.S. and Europe regarding copyright law - essentially making U.S. copyrights enforceable in Europe and visa-versa. Are there similar agreements regarding patents?

    If so, European developers may not be off the hook. Sure European companies won't be able to create software patents - but that wouldn't stop Microsoft or other U.S. companies from enforcing their patents.

    Is there a lawyer (or someone that passes for one) in the house?
    • What agreements are there between Europe and the U.S. concerning patent law?

      There are several, but the best known is TRIPs. Many proponents claims it requires software patents, although it doesn't [ffii.org]. There are even ways to interpret the various international treaties in a way that they forbid software patents [codeliberty.org].

      If so, European developers may not be off the hook. Sure European companies won't be able to create software patents - but that wouldn't stop Microsoft or other U.S. companies from enforcing the

    • Currently on the USPTO home page [uspto.gov]:

      The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will host an exploratory meeting February 3-4, 2005 at USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, to discuss the current state of substantive patent law harmonization and possible approaches for moving harmonization forward. Harmonization of patent laws will facilitate obtaining worldwide protection, which is essential to success in the global marketplace. Talks on substantive patent law harmonization at the World

    • "If so, European developers may not be off the hook. Sure European companies won't be able to create software patents - but that wouldn't stop Microsoft or other U.S. companies from enforcing their patents."

      It's just the oposite. EU companies can still create softwarepatents abroad, but it forbids softwarepatents in the EU, even when USA companies would try to enforce it.

      It comes down to: we can get patents there, but they can't get it here. All other objections to SWP aside, this alone should make it cle
  • Proud pole (Score:5, Insightful)

    by raflmoe (758933) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @12:01PM (#11159006)
    Even though people pull jokes and Poland's not really been any of the 'top ranked' countries in the west (or the east for that matter); I have never been prouder of being polish!
  • by rvw (755107) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @12:05PM (#11159071)
    At the moment I'm sorry to say I'm Dutch. The Dutch are presiding the EU at the moment, and as I understood the Dutch secretary Brinkhorst approved the law earlier this year and was afraid of loosing face if he now voted against it. He voted against the will of the Dutch parliament, and by using aparently normal political tactics he wanted to prevent a revote.

    For me this is the first really good thing coming out of the bigger EU. If you'd like to comment to the party of Brinkhorst, contact D66 [d66.nl] (Dutch, but you probably will understand it), his party, or mail them: international@d66.nl [mailto]. Here's a quote from their site [democrats.nl]:

    Maximum influence and participation of involved citizens are needed for all the social institutions.
  • by canuck57 (662392) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @12:17PM (#11159212)

    The US has to get their patent system in order or it will collapse. The only real purpose for the patent system with software is to employ lawyers in the software business and to harass innovative companies competing with larger companies. Both are counterproductive in developing computer technologu and for that mater mankinds development.

    The EU wants to develop their software business and do not want to let the likes of Microsoft come in and stifle growth with legal harassment. Even if you do no infringe, the mere fact a small company or individual is legally challenged is enough to put them out and under. The EU is doing it right by not letting in US legal problems into their system. A good recent example is how long and how far can SCO go before someone puts the execs in jail for extortion? Or perhaps the SEC for stock manipulation.

    And since most software patents can find their root in previous works or ideas developed in public universities and not really inside the business they originated in, most are fraudulent patents. Patents were meant to protect the original developing company from infringement. Microsoft didn't invent windows, XEROX/PA did. MIT did X before Microsoft had an OS. So So by rights, any patent on Windows by Microsoft is derived work and not an original invention. These patents should be rejected.

    Unless Canada and the US revise the law, I figure in 3-5 years most of our software will come from EU, India or China. Want a software development job, go to EU, India or China. Poland has the right idea, it will develop and keep their people at home.

  • Brinkhorst (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RogerWilco (99615) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @12:32PM (#11159402) Homepage Journal
    Well, our Dutch minister Brinkhorst unfortunately still hasn't changed his vote, although our own parlaiment has voted against software patents. I did send an e-mail last spring to his party's office that his behaviour on this subject was a mayor reason for me to no vote on his party in the last european elections.
    According to himself he's just afraid to lose face by changing his vote. But I think there's more to it. Any dutchies reading this, please let then know they are loosing votes over this issue.
    http://www.d66.nl/contact
  • by Handbrewer (817519) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @12:46PM (#11159558) Homepage
    He has been an IT manager in private business and studied Mathematics - i almost wet my pants of happiness as i read his CV.
    This is one politician i want to decide such matters as he actually has knowledge of what he is doing. Im so glad Poland is now in the EU :) - Heres to Wlodzimierz Marcinski!

    I wish we had politicians like him in Denmark when we decide IT politics :\
  • by CrazyWingman (683127) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @12:53PM (#11159635) Journal

    The Software Patent Directive has been withdrawn from the Agenda of the Council of Agriculture and Fisheries.

    Have I really not been paying enough attention to realize that when people said, "it's being pushed through the back door," that this is what they meant? Or does the EU have strange, overgrown branches of government (such that Agriculture and Fisheries really does control software rulings)? Or was this just a joke from the FFII?

    • by Hannes Eriksson (39021) <hannes.acc@umu@se> on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @03:31PM (#11161443)
      This is actually the back door that the FFII is talking about. They tried to take software patents the "Should we restrict fishery of endangered species, and by the way, patents on intellectual property should be allowed as proposed two months ago, right?" way.

      \begin{rant}
      That my friends, is NOT democracy as it should be done. In Sweden there is at least a law demanding that documents treated by court and parliament should be (as long as they are not threating personal integrity (and some other corner cases (they have lawyers/legal council/paralegal/whatever it's called in english, y'know))) made public so that anyone and everyone can se what their representative is doing. That is the main thing I lack in the overly bureaucratic EU.
      \end{rant}
  • Since Poland is now our hero, how about taking the famous poster from the Solidarity days, that reminisced on Gary Cooper and High Noon, and portraying some corporate IP monster as the villain?

    Too bad I'm not an artist. It would be awesome. Does anyone know if it is copyrighted?

  • by Per Abrahamsen (1397) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @01:31PM (#11160122) Homepage
    The software patent decision was twice undemocratic, first the parliament was ignored, second it was passed through the council of ministers by trickery.

    No matter what you think of software patents, everyone should be happy that someone in EU thinks democracy is worth taking serious.

    Funny that it should be one of the new members, given the "superior" attitude most of the old members take.

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