Say no to software patents

Software Patents: who pays and who plays?

(or why software patents may lead to another tragedy of the anti-commons)

Check here who to vote for!

This page tries to give a fairly concise overview of who will be harmed by software patents (and why), who will profit from them and what you can do about it.

(and that's enough headlines starting with a W)

Why are software patents bad for e-commerce?

The basic principles of doing business over the internet are already patented in Europe. If such software and business method patents are legalised, every e-commerce website approached by the owners of these patents will either have to pay for a license, or quit their business. We have made an illustration of a webshop which infringes on more than 20 granted European software patents. It's also available as a high quality PDF version in English, French, German, Dutch and Italian.

Why are software patents bad for SME's and individual developers?

Why do software patents chill innovation?

Patents are intended to encourage innovation by guaranteeing inventors that they will be able to recoup their investments. In software development, the largest cost factor is not coming up with an idea, but programming, testing and debugging (correcting errors in) the implementation. The result of this hard work is already protected by copyright, but the used ideas may be encumbered by software patents.

This means that software patents in fact reduce the chances of getting a good return-on-investment, as after the development phase is finished and the product is brought to market, a patent holder may pop-up, claim infringement and refuse to license his patents. Software patents will make development also even more expensive, as every design decision will have to be researched and declared legally secure.

The practical upshot is that software patents encourage litigation companies (companies with just a patent portfolio interested in forcing licensing deals) and penalise the real software development companies. Finally, they also impede sequential and complementary innovation, the corner stone of the entire software development industry. This shows us that software patents can easily lead us to a Tragedy of the anti-commons, if we consider ideas as commons.

Who does benefit from software patents?

What can you do? (new!)

Where can you find more information?

I've written two more documents on this topic which you can find here:

Additionally, the website on software patents of the FFII (Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure) is the definitive information resource on this topic. Unfortunately, due to the huge amounts of information you can find there, it is often very difficult to find exactly what you need. Therefore, you can find a Google box at the top of every page with which you can search their entire site. Use it! Finally, if you have some more questions, don't hesitate to contact me.

We do stand a chance!

As the European Parliament showed in September 2004, democracy and common sense are still very much alive in Europe. Almost nobody believed that we could change a thing, yet here we are. Our next task, convincing the Council to support our position, may be even more difficult, but we are convinced we can again make a significant difference. Europe has the chance here to show the world it can be a leader concerning drafting an patent policy that's adapted to the world we live in today. Make sure that we in Europe get a patent policy that Alan Greenspan would want for the US.