A few years back, there was a fierce battle between those wishing to lock down software with patents, and those who wanted to keep copyright as the main protection for computer code. Thankfully, the latter won. Here's what the BBC wrote at the time:
European politicians have thrown out a controversial bill that could have led to software being patented.
The European Parliament voted 648 to 14 to reject the Computer Implemented Inventions Directive.
The bill was reportedly rejected because, politicians said, it pleased no-one in its current form.
Responding to the rejection the European Commission said it would not draw up or submit any more versions of the original proposal.
However, that does not mean, of course, that the intellectual monopolists have given up: far from it. They have merely shifted their attack, and are now trying to use the proposed European Community Patent to create a backdoor for software patents across Europe:
The aim of creating a Community patent is to give inventors the option of obtaining a single patent which is legally valid throughout the European Union. The expected advantages of this system are a substantial reduction in patenting costs (in particular those relating to translation and filing), simplified protection of inventions throughout the territory of the EU thanks to one single procedure, and the establishment of a single centralised system of litigation. The creation of a Community patent system remains a sensitive issue as this dossier is still deadlocked after many years of discussions between the European decision-makers.
The danger is that the Community Patent ends up taking the most lenient view of software patents as a kind of “compromise” position. Opponents of software patents – which probably includes practically everyone in the open source community – now have a new site hosting a new petition to remind the politicians that any slide towards patents would be dangerous for Europe's indigenous software companies:
Our petition aims to unify the voices of concerned Europeans, associations and companies, and calls on our politicians in Europe to stop patents on software with legislative clarifications.
The patent system is misused to restrain competition for the economical benefit of a few but fails to promote innovation. A software market environment is better off with no patents on software at all. Healthy competition forces market players to innovate.
European court decisions still accept in many cases the validity of the software patents granted by national patent offices and the European Patent Office (EPO) that is beyond democratic control. They not only continue to grant them, but also to lobby in favor of them. Despite the current deep crisis of the patent system, they are unable to reform and put at risk too many European businesses with their soft granting policy.
On 2005 the Commission appeared to be more supportive to the interests of major international conglomerates than of small and medium sized enterprises from Europe - who are a major driving force behind European innovation. The European Parliament rejected at the end the software patent directive, but has no rights for legislative initiatives.
Particularly valuable is the page with links to dozens of studies demonstrating just how deletorious software patents have been, are and would be.
Parenthetically, UK's showing compared to other nations is rather dismal at the moment, so you might want to fly the flag by adding your name. It's a painless process that will take about 30 seconds of your time – a small price to pay for preventing the introduction of the kind of software patent insanity that is observed in the US.