Author: Razvan MIHAIU
razvan_rem@rem_mihaiu.name (please remove '_rem' and 'rem_')
From: www.mihaiu.name
Date: 11/04/2005

European patent




The American patent system has done a lot of damages to the open source community and it is a continuing threat to its existence. The following are true stories about the negative effects of the patent system on open source and innovation in general:

Fugitive From Justice

Yahoo Patents Dynamic Page Generator

Firms may face fees for using patented Y2K fix

The European patent system doesn't currently allow software patents but large corporations are pressing the European Parliament to push the European patent system on the same path as its American counterpart. The fight against this has been successful till now but many more still need to be done:

Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure

Software patents: "The Basics"

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): Patents

Software Patents in Europe: A Short Overview

Clear Limits to Patentability!

The beauty of the American patent system is that no matter how honest you are and how hard you work to ensure that you are not stepping on some else's patent that cannot be achieved. The number of patents is huge and their number is greatly increasing every day. OTOH, some patents are so trivial/generic that practically it is impossible not to step on them when writing any useful piece of software. For example let's suppose that someone would patent a generic mouse-trap:

Mouse trap algorithm:

  1. Around the mouse trap / in the mouse trap there is mouse-bait;
  2. If no bait is used then the mouse trap will be put in an area known to be frequented by mice;
  3. When a mouse comes within the operating range the mouse trap will seize/kill the mouse;

How would you build a mouse trap that does not meet some of the above specifications ? Perhaps you think that this is not a real issue since the patent office will never grant a patent as trivial as the mouse-trap. Nothing can be far from the truth. The USA patent office has failed again and again to exclude trivial patents from acceptance. There is no reason to believe that a similar European patent office will have a better efficiency.

The net result is that no matter what piece of software you write there exists the possibility that someone will sue you for that. Would that be a problem for the large corporations ? NO ! This is a problem for small software companies, for open source developers, for freelance developers a.s.o.




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Best regards,
Razvan MIHAIU



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