Software patents are threatening to reach Europe

Article published on March 17, 2005
community published
Article published on March 17, 2005

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

What would you think if, when accessing this site to read this article, you had to pay a certain amount of money “thanks” to the existence of a patent that establishes as intellectual property the double click of your mouse?

US Patent 6,727,830, which regulates this invention, has been given to Microsoft. This is not an isolated example. Network Associates is about to patent the fight against spam. Where is the limit? Here, in Europe, is this what we have ahead of us?

The Globalisation of Software

On Monday, March 7th, the EU Council of Ministers of Industry and Energy approved a software patent law proposed in May 2004. The Spanish vote against it and the abstention of some countries from the Union (Austria, Italy and Belgium) were not enough to prevent the progress of the above-mentioned document.

The Spanish people showed their great discontent with the European institutions in the recent referendum on the Constitution, with 58% of citizens abstaining from voting. But once again, the European Union has not corrected itself and continues to show how removed it is from its citizens. This fact has been made clear by the favouritism and support given by the EU to the large multinationals in their fight to obtain software patents, and the way in which it ignored popular opinion regarding this action across the Continent.

The software giant Microsoft, an old warrior regarding these battles, along with other big companies such as Nokia, is putting pressure on the EU. They are doing this in order to keep the directive moving forward, with the excuse that these measures will improve the development and innovation of technology.

David vs. Goliath

Nothing is further from the truth. They claimed that patents would energise the industry and accelerate the growth of this field in the US, but in fact they have had the opposite effect. Small and medium sized enterprises specialising in this field have found themselves in endless lawsuits against the giants of software. Continuous litigations come to life due to these kinds of regulations, where the big companies and, of course, all their supporters and calculating lawyers, are assured of victory. And what about free and open source software? Altruistic projects, such as Linux, are threatened with extinction as open codes would become a violation of intellectual property. Different free and open source software users’ associations estimate that more than half of the computer programs currently used in the EU will become illegal.

In a globalised world, where the big companies are the ones pulling the strings of the world’s economics and politics, the European Union has to stay strong and not approve, behind its citizens’ backs, measures that could damage them. If what is wanted is that the citizens of the 25 member states trust in their institutions and, at the same time, build a patriotic European feeling, the European lobbies that make these sorts of decisions should be more careful. Moreover, with the big multinationals on their case, it would be very easy to question the good intentions of these lobbies. If you decide to leave this site with your usual mouse click, we hope that you won’t be charged for it in the near future!