The European Parliament votes on software patents on the 24th of this
month. Software couldn't previously be patented, as is the case for
music and other works. Software patents only further the interests of
software giants, not users. If the law is approved, it will be nearly
impossible to cancel its effects. The time to act is now.
The most significant gains derived from software are not sales proceeds
but services rendered to users. Free software benefit us all, yet, in
all likelihood, they also violate many patents. Their strength lies in
their being owned by us all equally. Unfortunately this form
of ownership is also their weakness, as it is not in the interests of
any corporation to protect free software against patent infringement lawsuits.
Any software developer can violate software patents unintentionally
because software patents are secret until they have been approved;
although legal claims can be made even before patent approval. The threat
of patent infringement lawsuits can be used to stifle competition. Large
patent holders can negotiate bilateral agreements by exchanging patent
licenses. Small companies and individuals do not have such opportunities.
This distorts the competitive environment. In the case of Linux,
developers can be sued, leading to a potential collapse of the project
which has brought many benefits to us all.
Wrongly granted patents are a big problem because they can encompass many
unforeseen software ideas. Searching for software patents is practically
impossible because the same idea can be expressed in a multitude of ways.
If patents couldn't be used to bring companies and individuals to trial,
why would the software giants want them? If the law is approved, patent
holders can sue almost all of their competitors. Software patents serve
the giants and force smaller competitors to bankruptcies. Why isn't EU
against software patents when they reduce competition, eliminate choice,
and increase expenditures?
Troy Korjuslommi and Petri Koistinen
PLUG, Porvoo Linux User Group