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July 6th, 2005 by Franki

In something of a win for the good guys, the European parliament has voted overwhelmingly against the proposed “Directive on the Patentability of Computer Implemented Inventions.” otherwise known as the software patents directive. It isn’t a huge win for those against software patents because the EU is already rife with them and it’s simply a matter of “business as usual” for the big software companies.

The news has been covered by dozens of IT sites already so I’ll not go into it further here except to give you some links to those sites.

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March 7th, 2005 by Franki

Sometimes something happens that makes me think that perhaps there needs to be some reworking on the democratic process. Take for example the communications between government and big business. Should companies with millions of dollars be allowed to have unrecorded meetings with the heads of government? Take the recent Denmark story where it was said Microsoft threatened to move their software division out of the country if the software patent directive wasn’t adopted. Microsoft denied the report but apparently admitted that both items were in the discussion. If the discussion was recorded on tape for public record, we’d all be able to decide for ourselves if it was a threat or not.
The latest news is that approximately a week after the EC denied the request to restart the patent directive discussion even though they no longer had a majority in favour of it, the EC Council presidency has denied a request from Poland, Denmark, Portugal and others (not specified) who asked for a B item (discussion point) instead of just voting though an A item. ” The Luxembourg presidency claimed this was not possible due to procedural reasons” and as a result the software patent directive was voted though without further discussion.

Once this goes though, the EU courts will likely fill up with stupid software cases like the SCO/IBM saga where anyone that see’s the potential for money will sue on the off chance for a payout. Worse, big companies can use their big budgets to haul little companies into court and drive them out of business. There is the possibility that this directive will get voted down at it’s second reading to the EU parliament, but it’s apparently much harder to change something at second reading then it was the first time around. The problem is that the EC don’t realise that this will cost them far more money in the long run then any big software companies could invest in their countries. Look at the number of software patent cases going on in the US system if you’re looking for proof. Read the details of the EC story at the FFII.

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February 15th, 2005 by Franki

Bill Gates is apparently getting alittle upset that the European Union are not falling into line by adopting the same software patent laws that have so filled the US court system with stupid cases.

To make his intention clear, big Bill has threatened to move his Denmark software unit to the US unless the EU agree’s to software patents.

IT magnate Bill Gates plans to move Microsoft’s Denmark-based Navision business software unit to the United States if the European Union blocks his attempts to secure Microsoft’s intellectual property rights in Europe.

Well, now it begins to become clear why the unpopular directive keeps getting put back on the table even though it has been shot down several times now. There is money behind the push folks, and now you see where some of it is coming from. What Microsoft probably doesn’t understand though, is that the EU isn’t likely to drop their pants for a US company, because competing with the US was one of the reasons for starting the EU in the first place. Many big software companies already have registered software patents in the EU, and anything that changes the rules in a way that makes those patents less valid is not something the huge software companies want to accept as it removes one of their tools for crushing smaller opposition. (like Open Source for example).

Read the full story here or here.
INSERT: Microsoft have denied that they are in any way blackmailing Denmark.

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December 14th, 2004 by Franki

The EU after finding out that they don’t have the majority vote on approving the software patent directives have found a new way to try and push it though without giving it the scrutiny it deserves. They are apparently going to put it to an EU meeting of Fishery experts.

It really makes you wonder who is funding this from the shadows as this is not the first time they have tried it and I can’t imagine they would be this devious in getting it pushed through if they were not getting something in return. As we all know, the really big software companies love software patents as it gives them a means to drag smaller competitors though the courts for years and drain them of cash.

Read the rest of this entry »

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November 24th, 2004 by Franki

It’s been along time coming, but European countries are starting to really think hard about the implications of the proposed software patent directive that is being discussed by the EU at present. Poland has just withdrawn their support for the directive in it’s current form.

This is good because it stops companies like this one who’s entire business is to sit around and come up with or buy ideas that they can patent. They then wait around for someone else to do the hard work, and then they go and hit them up for easy cash. It’s similar to domain cyber squatting, but legal and with allot more money involved. (Patent cyber squatting?)

Europeans have another reason to ditch the idea of software patents. Microsoft is an American company, and right now the Europeans seem to want to distance themselves from the US in any way possible. Being tied to MS software is not something they want forced on them. Microsoft has recently indicated that at some stage it or someone similar will come after Linux users for patent infringement, (thinly veiled threat?) Having a system like that of the US where people can patent ideas like computer to-do lists is going to cause massive problems to Linux uptake in the future, even if they patent threat is non-factual. Read more about Poland dropping out here.


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October 20th, 2004 by Franki

In an effort to stop Europe from following the US into patent depravity, a new site has been launched to try and co-ordinate efforts to lobby against software patent adoption from being put into place in the European Union.

Patent wars are only a possibility for companies with very deep pockets, as has recently been demonstraited by Sun’s payout to Kodak of 92 million US dollars. The question to be asked, is what happens to small developers and Open Source groups? If companies are allowed to patent basic software building blocks, then you will eventually not be able to write anything without stepping on somebody else’s toes patent wise. Which means that you either have to have millions, or you have to work for one of the big companies, or you have to find another occupation.

The new site has the backing of some significant companies, not the least of which is ZDNET.

Any of my readers in Europe should really write to their local members about this, because if it goes though, you can expect the cost of software to rise as well. After all, if you have to pay millions of dollars to licence patented ideas, you’re going to pass that cost on to your customers aren’t you?

While you’re out browsing, you might also want to check out as well.



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September 30th, 2004 by Franki

The JPEG image security flaw in Windows that Microsoft recently announced is starting to appear in the wild. TheInq has a story about a new variant that is spreading or attempting to spread via AOL Instant Chat software.

The next bit, also from TheInq, is that apparently there are loads of people out there using Windows that have no idea that they are infected by virus’s, worms or Trojans. It really goes to show that computing on Windows has been marketed as being so easy that most people don’t even know that they need to protect themselves. That’s a real shame, because nowadays it need not even cost you money to protect yourself. ClamWin is a totally free Open Source anti-virus application for Windows, and in my tests, it has been remarkably stable, fast and effective.

Lastly, we have this article, in which Tim Berners-Lee, one of the guys largely credited with what we now call the Internet says something most smart people who don’t work for big software corporations have been saying for some time. That software patents hurt innovation and lock the little guys out of the game. Look at it this way. Where would Microsoft be, if they had to pay big license fee’s for technology based on TCP/IP? (TCP/IP is the protocol that is responsible for the web, and also for a good deal of internal networks as well.)

The pioneers like Mr Berners-Lee created something that has been of benefit to the whole of humankind, and yet none of them that I am aware of, have a 45 billion dollar personal fortune. Unlike a certain someone who has benefited directly and greatly from the work of these pioneers. And this same certain someone’s company recently couldn’t let go of the almighty dollar for long enough to help rid the world of SPAM. Let us all hope and pray that the next generation of pioneers do not work for this certain company.



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