Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Patents Government Politics

UKPO Workshops Find EU Patent Directive Faulty 63

Posted by Zonk
from the turn-the-boat dept.
TheEvilOverlord writes "ZDNet has up a report about the current EU patent directive not being up to muster; 'Workshops held by the UK Patent Office (UKPO) around the country have found that the definition of technical contribution in the software patent directive would let through too many patents'. Unfortunately the UKPO can't change the government's stance of supporting this destructive directive."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

UKPO Workshops Find EU Patent Directive Faulty

Comments Filter:
  • by pieterh (196118) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @03:53PM (#12671887) Homepage
    Software patents are evil. The pro-monopoly lobby is using weasel words like "technical" to hide a loophole through which one can drive freight trains. 50,000 software patents have already been granted by the EPO on this flmsy basis. If you think your softare is protected by copyright, think again - the EPO, backed by legalistic mumbo-jumbo like "technical" has sold your work under the counter to a patent attorney.

    Software patents are theft. No two ways about it. Patenting ideas and literary expressions is theft. Expropriation. Corruption.

    The lady, and she knows who she is, who invented this particular weasel word will go down in history as a villain.
    • and today, 55% of frogs noticed that the European climate is too cold to grow bananas. Heck, looks like it's even to cold for apples now. Way to go!
      • A banana republic with the world's largest economy, and a banana republic which forced US chipmakers to stop using lead, among other things. Yep.
        • A banana republic of which 9 countries out of 10 (so far) approved of a constitution which would make software patents constitutional (while, ironically enough, they are unconstitutional in the US, because they don't "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts")

          It's not an apple republic though, because the French applefarmer didn't get his way, hehe ;-)

          Hopefully, by this evening, it will be 2 out of 11 that will have made the reasonable choice!

    • Software patents are theft. No two ways about it. Patenting ideas and literary expressions is theft. Expropriation. Corruption.

      Would you care to explain what theft has taken place? If crimes such as identity fraud and copyright infringment are not actually theft, I don't see how you can call this theft.

      • Would you care to explain what theft has taken place? If crimes such as identity fraud and copyright infringment are not actually theft, I don't see how you can call this theft.

        Is you'd read your Proudhon, you'd know the answer to that ;o)

        The reason that it's different from the above examples is that it denies people use of the 'IP', whereas copyright infringment or 'identity theft' doesn't, but rather does the converse.

        Whether it's actually theft is another matter, but it is different.

      • Theft (Score:4, Informative)

        by pieterh (196118) on Monday May 30, 2005 @04:12AM (#12675152) Homepage
        The theft is this: the patent officer and patent attorney collaborate to create "property", the patent, using deliberately vague legalistic language that stakes a claim to an idea or domain of work.

        In theory, this domain of work is entirely new and the patent is the basis for the investment necessary to exploit it.

        In practice, and especially with software patents, no domain of work is truly innovative and no idea is original: rather, we create software by incredibly many incredibly small incremental steps. All creative work in programming is the result of community effort, which is why no-one can develop software in isolation. We need to be part of a community in order to create. To pretend otherwise is to lie, thus all software patent applications start with a falsehood, "I invented this".

        To aquire a claim on a domain means that all others working in this domain lose the right to the fruit of their labour. Thus, you can literally see years or decades of hard work being captured and made someone else's property. Where software patents are granted, copyrights are being annulled without due process. Expropriation.

        The only route to appeal is through the courts and this is impossible for the majority of people.

        If someone steals my life savings, this is theft. If someone steals my life's work, this is theft. No difference except the latter is sponsored and protected by the bureaucrats who sell the patents in the first place.

        It's very analagous with the way traditional common lands have been taken from those that lived on them and granted to wealthy newcomers through the use of legal documents backed up by the power of the state.

        Basically the software industry has been hijacked.
      • Patenting/Copyrighting something prevents the use and access of something to everyone except a select number of people or to limited number of scenarios. If that is done unethically (e.g. retroactive extensions to copyright/patent terms) it could be far closer to theft than copying something will ever be.

        For example, if a work or idea is public domain (or is about to enter public domain) but some rich corporations bribe the lawmakers to change the laws so that work is no longer the public's or does not bec
    • Someone ought to search for especially flimsy patents, hack up some infringing code, offer for free the full code online (under a OSS compatible license), and *sell* proprietary licenses to it. Of course, that person would need the EFF backing it up, but it would do well to prove a point, should the algorithms be simple enough: SOFTWARE PATENTS ARE STUPID.
  • by xwildph (870208) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @04:03PM (#12671936)

    It's an absolute disgrace, that the UK media aren't covering this very important issue. The European council have disregarded the decision of the elected Parliament, and have tried to force this through.

    Software patents are wrong, and incredibly dangerous territory for SME business. Larger companies may well be able to devend and enforce patents, but smaller players are likely to be unable to do so, and could be forced to lay off staff, raise prices, or even close down.

    Software is simply a list of instructions. It is not a physical product. It should not therefore be patentable. Copyright protection is available to those who need it.

    relevant links

    XW

    • My favourite site:

      http://www.economic-majority.com/testimony/index.e n.php [economic-majority.com]
    • It's an absolute disgrace, that the UK media aren't covering this very important issue. The European council have disregarded the decision of the elected Parliament, and have tried to force this through.

      Maybe the next draft of the EU constitution could introduce some real democracy to the EU institutions. I'm not going to hold my breath, though.

      • In Demark there was a binding order from Parliament. But the responsible minister ignored it and they created a superficial and incredible theater piece. It had no consequences for the Minister responsible. Denmark is strange. In rotten Denmark the "Road to Europe" [greg.org] had no political consequences for Rasmussen, he did not step down. Similarly the representative was rescued by the social democrats. In other European states he would regarded as a criminal. Democracy in Denmark is soft, it is still a monarchy.
        h [ffii.org]
    • by langarto (718855) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @05:15PM (#12672271)
      It's an absolute disgrace, that the UK media aren't covering this very important issue. The European council have disregarded the decision of the elected Parliament, and have tried to force this through.

      Welcome to modern democracy.

      We will let you vote, as long as what you vote doesn't matter, dear consumer.

    • Software is simply a list of instructions. It is not a physical product. It should not therefore be patentable. Copyright protection is available to those who need it.

      As being simply a list of instruction one could argue it's like a chemical molecul, a structure and therefore be patentable. However, software is also a bunch of implemented ideas. Not solely one idea but thousands of ideas. To protect your implementation of ideas there's copyright protection. It's not one idea that makes good software, how

    • What many people are forgetting is that some of the most imporant software patents are expiring. Anything before 1987.
  • A bit odd (Score:5, Interesting)

    by boringgit (721801) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @04:07PM (#12671963) Homepage
    Strange thing this.

    When I first heard about this whole software aptent issue, I wrote to my MP, who then forwarded my letter to a minister at the DTI.

    He told me that the governments support for software patents was based soley on advice given by the UK Patent office.

    If this is no longer the case, surely the government needs to reconsider.....
    • Re:A bit odd (Score:5, Informative)

      by codehelp (690583) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @05:27PM (#12672324) Homepage
      I was at one of the UKPO workshops and we were promised a full report. The UKPO has now put the report on the workshops on the web as a PDF.
      http://www.patent.gov.uk/about/ippd/issues/eurocom p/full_report.pdf [patent.gov.uk]

      The UKPO clearly state that the purpose of the exercise from their perspective was to "find a definition that fits the current [case] law" -
      sounds a lot like "decide what you want and make the facts conform afterwards".

      2. The UKPO at least admit that none of the definitions - including the one in the Directive that the Council want to force through - actually fit even that limited remit.

      This was inevitable and everyone on the FFII lists knew this in advance - nobody actually WANTS what the UKPO want. We need a change in the law and that can only come from supporting the European Parliament amendments and pushing for a complete restart of the entire directive.

      Write again to that MP and point out that the government's own statements on software patents are NOT compatible with the results of the UKPO's own workshops. The government does need to reconsider and it does need to support the Parliament amendments. The UK government is under the impression that the directive maintains the status quo and they must now see that the workshops have blown that away. The UK government has said that it does NOT want to allow more than what is currently practiced by the UKPO and the UKPO themselves recognise that the current definition does NOT match that practice.

      The Directive, as it currently stands, is MORE PERMISSIVE than the current law. The UKPO have NOT accepted this as their position on the directive, it is merely the opinion of those at the workshops. We need to drive home the message that the UKPO's own workshops showed that their recommendation, as embodied within the Directive, does NOT maintain the status quo - in direct
      contravention of everything the UKPO has published on the Directive. The Directive, if passed in the version proposed by the EU Council, WILL move the
      balance in FAVOUR of more software patents AND give ALL existing software patents the full force of European law. Additionally, a whole raft of NEW areas will also become patentable. "technical contribution" is a smoke-screen - it means absolutely nothing.

  • Of course the UKPO can change because the UK government is the UKPO. Lord Sainsbury, the minister responsible in the EU Council of Ministers, ordered the workshop series to be held. Software patent legislation is one example for legislation overtaken by administration in the interests of particular interests.

    The UKPO has the most radical pratice in Europe, a vague definition of technical. Change has to take place. At least I expect Lord Sainsbury not to act against EU Parliament which is fixing the Uncommo [ffii.org]
  • by Husgaard (858362) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @04:17PM (#12672003)
    Now that the European Council has passed the directive against their own rules [ffii.org], the opinions of the european governments no longer have any real power.

    What matters now is what happens in the European Parliament. The expert hearing [ffii.org] they recently held or the amendments proposed [ffii.org] (pdf in english [eu.int]) are a lot more interesting than a UK software patent workshop.

    • > Now that the European Council has passed the directive against their own rules
      > [ffii.org], the opinions of the european governments no longer have any real
      > power.

      You've been tricked! I'm the first to admit that my understanding of the situation is not 100% correct, however I think it's more or less on target....

      The European Council (of Ministers) is made up of members of the various European governments. You don't realise this because when your government addresses you at home, it always talks about the EU Council as a separate body that hands down laws that your government is forced to implement.

      They never mention that they are the EU Council.

      The British council members are democratically elected (though they are still in favour of the CIID because Labour is shite). I don't know about other countries, but I understand that some have very strange arrangements, like Denmark for instance, where the (elected) parliament have no control over the (unelected) ministers, who sit on the council, making the rules.

      The problem is that the idea of the European Parliament seems to be a charade designed to trick the masses into thinking they have direct control over the pan-EU government. The EU Parliament is really very weak. Some say the EU Constitution may fix this, and others say it will make the problem worse. I don't know myself--I tried to read the Draft Treaty Establishing a Constitution of Europe, but I only got to page 25 out of 400 or so before giving up...

      In practice, the unelected EU Commission (liberally greased by Big Business, and featuring crooks like Peter Mandelson) makes up shitty laws, and the partially-elected, but unaccountable, European Council of Ministers nods them through.

      When the public complain about said shitty laws, the government ministers then turn around and place the blame upon the very same council which they sit on, that passed the laws in question.

      Meanwhile the Parliament flaps around, unable to do anything, because to overrule or alter the adoption of a directive by the Council, they need an overwhelmingly large absolute majority (something like 70% I think) at the Second Reading of a directive. Oh, and absentees and abstentions count in favour of the council. So it's even money if enough MEPs will even turn up to make a difference on the second reading of the CIID in about a month's time.

      Basically, the EU's a Banana Republic [eu.int]. :(
      • by Deternal (239896)
        Just to clarify:
        In Denmark there are general elections for parliament - we only have one in denmark, no upper house like many others.

        This parliament decides on the cabinet (minister of state, minister of foreign affairs etc.).

        The parliament also have different working groups - one of these working groups have to do with EU issues.

        This group consisting of parliament members from all parties, is the group that gives the minister his mandate for his actions in the council.

        So to say that it is undemocratic
        • This parliament decides on the cabinet (minister of state, minister of foreign affairs etc.).

          This is not correct.

          The democratically elected danish parliament (Folketinget) has no direct influence on the appointment of the government ministers. See article 14 in the danish constitution [folketinget.dk]: "The King shall appoint and dismiss the Prime Minister and the other Ministers."

          But article 15 ("A Minister shall not remain in office after the Folketing has approved a vote of no confidence in him.") means that

      • The British council members are democratically elected (though they are still in favour of the CIID because Labour is shite).

        I feel obliged to point out that this depends on your definition of "democratically elected". I'm not sure a government that attracted only just over 1/5 of the vote at a general election really has a mandate to be making radical policy decisions over the complaints of the electorate, particularly when that "winning" party in fact lost the popular vote in England. The only other

  • Letters to MEPs (Score:3, Interesting)

    by seanellis (302682) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @04:18PM (#12672010) Homepage Journal

    Anyone who writes to their MEP on this issue, why not post a link here to how you got on?

    My original letter [ntlworld.com] only got a handful of replies. Let's see how a new letter gets on...

    • Re:Letters to MEPs (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Husgaard (858362) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @04:48PM (#12672138)
      After having seen the amendments proposed [ffii.org] (pdf in english [eu.int]), I would not send a letter like that to any MEP.

      Most of these amendments are meant to ensure that software might be part of a patentable invention, while the software as such cannot be patented.

      If I was going to write my MEP today, I would urge them to support Michel Rocards amendmends, while opposing the amendmends by Toine Manders and Malcolm Harbour (the last two being "IP" policy extremists with little support in the Parliament anyway). And I would urge them to vote on this matter, as an absolute majority is needed for the Parliament to do anything now.

    • Re:Letters to MEPs (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Richard_at_work (517087) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .ecirpdrahcir.> on Sunday May 29, 2005 @05:48PM (#12672428)
      This might seem unrelated but, I actually met with my MP at a dinner setup by my employers for other reasons (they are big supporters of his locally) and so far I have managed to get him to raise the Regulation of Investigatory Powers act issues with the party leadership after actually shocking him with the actual details of the RIP bill (shifting of the burden of proof of innocence, secret evidence, contradicting the Misuse of Computers act etc) and he asked me for any further info in writing, which he passed onto a select committee who have raised it further - as I understand it, its due to be discussed in Parliament within the next 3 months, which is fantastic proof that your MP *can* work for you.
      • Yeah, your MP can work for you - but only if you can get his attention.

        What about representing the people who's employers AREN'T big supporters ? How do we get a look in ?
        • I spoke to him as a seperate individual, as Im just a bitplayer in the company I work for - he had no reason to do anything other than say 'send the info over, I shall look it over'. I sent him a fax on another subject a few years ago through the writetothem.com service (or faxyourmp.org.uk as it was then), he replied to me via letter, and held a 7 letter long discussion with myself on the subject, so I consider my MP to be one that works for everyone.

    • Re:Letters to MEPs (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Mr Smidge (668120) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @06:08PM (#12672571) Homepage
      I wrote a letter to my local MP, and a few London MEPs. With the exception of one conservative MEP, all the responses I got were actually quite positive!

      My local MP (conservative) commented:
      "After .. dealing with EU directives and regulations, a high proportion like this are actually damaging to business. As you observe, the Commission has scant respect from democracy."

      He took the issue up with the secretary of state for trade and industry, but no reply. After the general election, he's no longer my MP, and I have yet to contact the new one.

      To summarise the reponses from the London MEPs I made contact with:

      Sarah Ludford (Lib Dem) - Echoed the official Lib Dem stance of "support[ing] continued widespread innovation in software by resisting the wider application of patents in this area".

      Robert Evans (Labour) - Oppose software patents, and powerfully stated, "Patents and the threat of litigation must not be used as an anti-competitive weapon to squeeze out small companies", and "Open source software must be allowed to flourish and the Commission must ensure that this Directive does not have any adverse effect on OSS and small software developers".

      Theresa Villiers (Conservative) - Received a particularly personal response indicating that she shared my worries on the issue, and assured me that she would continue to oppose software patents.

      Charles Tannock (Conservative) - Oh dear, there's always one. Dr. Tannock claimed that the Directive would clarify the existing situation and not allow pure software patents. He also challenged my statements of the harmful effects on OSS and small businesses, and asked me for my evidence. He had clearly not read the Directive text itself.

      I wrote back a rather scathing letter, quoting the Directive text itself, and providing numerous references of the negative effects. I presented it all very clearly in a way that he couldn't ignore. After that, I got back a half-amusing reply, saying that the points I raised were beyond his technical expertise. He supposedly forwarded my letter to another MEP, but I haven't heard anything since.

      It seems that, on the whole, the British Politicians aren't clueless. The suspicious progress that this Directive has made has got to be due to corporate lobbying efforts.

      It really is down to the EP to make sure this Directive doesn't get made law, otherwise I might be forced to start voting UKIP (heaven forbid).
      • You should be very careful about interpreting the replies you get. The letters coming from the Lib Dem, Labour and Conservative politicians are often stock replies, either wholly or partially drafted by the respective party advisors on this issue. They may sound positive and even strongly anti-swpat but in each case the respective advisor is in the hard pro-software patent camp. Sharon Bowles (Lib Dem advisor), for example, is a patent attorney. The letters so drafted are simply expressing more or less soph
        • The letters coming from the Lib Dem, Labour and Conservative politicians are often stock replies ..

          Indeed, that was the impression I got with my reply from Sarah Ludford (LD).

          However, the letters from Theresa Villiers and Robert Evans definitely did not seem like stock letters, which I appreciate. Although neither one said in those exact words that they would vote, they both did say that they would fight against the pro-swpat group. That's still a plus to me.

          It's amazing how politicians can write 2-3
  • El Reg article (Score:1, Informative)

    by bbrazil (729534)

    The register had an article on this two days ago

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/05/27/patent_off ice_technical/ [theregister.co.uk]

  • "the definition of technical contribution in the directive is "ambiguous and too liberal", the UKPO said."

    I am glad they listened to what most of us told them (well the lawyers seemed to have a different opinion on this, but eh..) - I was at one of the London workshops.

    "If an opportunity arises to discuss amendments to the directive, it is worth considering that there may be an advantage in changing the definition of technical contribution," said Probert.

    Translates to: don't hold your breath!
    It is going

    • > "If an opportunity arises to discuss amendments to the directive, it is worth considering that there may be an advantage in changing the definition of technical contribution," said Probert.

      > Translates to: don't hold your breath!

      This possibility was raised at the workshop I attended - but when I asked how this might happen, the answer was that the post-election government could conceivably decide that the definition of "technical contribution" needed to change, and support amendments to that effec
  • Given the fundamental nature of software, software simply is not patentable, not even in connection to some hardware IP.

    This is a matter of physical phenomenon, natural law, abstract ideas and you can even throw in a few more like mathmatical algorythims.

    Economically its all about which is the better method of instilling advancement. Although GNU is ten years behind the likes of MS, its clear that it has been playing an important part in instilling advancement, as MS would likely be much lazier and anti-c
  • One way to attempt to handle this is to make sure there's plenty of material around which may well be 'prior art', i.e. demonstrably invented before any patent.

    My contribution is to put a pile of 'Live Linux for Windows' CDs here Linux-for-Windows [btconnect.com]

    Your mileage may vary, of course, but I think they make great executive toys.

    Chris

  • I think it is rather signifigant to understand how the UK patent office set this up. They tested various patent law proposals against various hypothetical patent applications. The test cases they used were divided into three catagories. Catagory A test cases were 5 "clearly be patentable" examples, catagory B test cases were 5 "clearly be unpatentable" examples, and catagory C was 4 borderline-but-patentable tests and 4 borderline-but-unpatentable tests.

    According to UK patent office's review rules, for a
  • As much as I would like to see an accurate and bulletproof definition that prevents software-only patents from being granted, I'm not very hopeful that this will happen. One thing that I believe can dramatically reduce the effect of software patents is a definition that says that it is not possible for pure software to infringe a patent. In fact, no data stored on computer media (source code, binary code, data files, documents etc.) should be allowed to be an infringement. This is very easy to define and wi

HOST SYSTEM NOT RESPONDING, PROBABLY DOWN. DO YOU WANT TO WAIT? (Y/N)

Working...