W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org > December 2002

EPO President: Patents Unsuited for Software

From: Seth Johnson <seth.johnson@realmeasures.dyndns.org>
Date: Thu, 05 Dec 2002 13:35:21 -0500
Message-ID: <3DEF9C69.546C5C7E@RealMeasures.dyndns.org>
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org, C-FIT_Community@realmeasures.dyndns.org, C-FIT_Release_Community@realmeasures.dyndns.org, fairuse-discuss@nyfairuse.org

(Forwarded from Patents list)

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: EPO President: Patents Unsuited for Software
Date: Thu, 5 Dec 2002 16:34:54 +0100
From: PILCH Hartmut <phm@a2e.de>
To: news@ffii.org
CC: intprop-l@topica.com, epo@mlist.austria.eu.net

In the mailing list archives

> http://lists.ffii.org/archive/mails/swpat/2002/Dec/
> http://www.aful.org/wws/arc/patents/2002-12/

you can find some interesting news


2002-12-03: Innovation Scientist: EU should ban software

In the german engineer newspaper "VDI-Nachrichten" D Dr.
Joachim Henkel from the Institute for Innovation Research of
Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich writes

  Zu viel Schutz schadet nur
  Wirtschaft: Warum die EU Patente auf Software verbieten

Too much protection is only damaging
Economy: Why the EU should ban software patents

  Ende dieses Jahres entscheidet die EU-Kommission über die
  Patentierbarkeit von Software. Dr. Joachim Henkel vom
Institut für
  Innovationsforschung der Uni München plädiert im folgenden
  gegen Patente. Sein Urteil: Mehr Schutz ist
  und schadet dem Mittelstand.


2002-12-04: EPO President: Patents Unsuited for Software

A belgian newspaper article

  Le Soir du mercredi 4 décembre 2002
  Technologies: Le patron de l'Office européen des brevets
  « Un brevet logiciel me laisse sceptique »

reports about a legitimacy crisis of the European Patent
Office (EPO) which is confronted with all kinds of
accusations, among them the assertion that it has been
granting "ridiculous patents" for software ideas.  In an
interview with the newspaper, EPO president Dr. iur. Ingo
Kober is quoted as saying that he is "sceptical about
patenting of software" and believes that copyright is more
appropriate, and, if idea protection is really needed, a
tailor-made system would be more appropriate than patents:

> L'idée de breveter un logiciel en tant que tel me laisse sceptique,
> affirme pourtant Ingo Kober. Il ne s'agit pas d'une invention par
> définition. Cela conduirait à des situations juridiques intenables. Le
> logiciel est protégé par le droit d'auteur et si ce n'est pas suffisant,
> il n'est pas nécessaire de le rendre brevetable. Une troisième voie qui
> consisterait à autoriser la protection des idées pourrait être
> envisagée.

Already in the past Kober has warned against "kneejerk
reactions" of some industry patent lawyers who were pressing
for deletion of the software patent exclusion from Art 52


On the other hand side, under Kober's presidency, which
started in 1995, the EPO has glided toward widening the
scope and enforcability of patents in the area of software. 
E.g. in 1998 the legalisation of program claims was
proclaimed to be an official EPO policy by an apparent
presidential remark under two court decisions.  In 2001, the
EPO rushed to revise its examination guidelines so as to 
incorporate this change, although the European Commission
was still undecided and in fact later, in its proposal of
February 2002,  opted against this change.  See


Yet it is quite plausible that Kober may during all these
years have preserved a skeptical distance to the software
patentability agenda. After all one other well known
high-level EPO representative is Gert Kolle, who has also
been a spokesman for a position which is diametrically
opposed to authoritative articles which he wrote a few years



Bruce Perens is calling free software developpers in Europe
to join the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).  One
immediate purpose of the membership is to be the assurance
of majorities on behalf of a royalty-free-only
standardisation policy, similar to or better than that of
the W3C:


At least in Europe, IETF/ISOC is already a signatory of our

        Call for Action

That of course could be another reason to join this group,
which has laid much of the foundations of the current


At a session earlier this week in the Legal Affairs
Committee of the European Parliament, the rapporteur Arlene
McCarthy took a critical approach to the software
patentability directive.  In her report, she evoked various
examples of american and european court verdicts which warn
against allowing an unoverseeable range of human activity to
come under the scope of the patent system by looking at
patent claims in a superficial way and treating anything as
"technical" to which claims can be framed in terms of
computer equipment. McCarthy said that the directive
proposal needs to be tightened up significantly, and that
the European Council patent working party's approach


is insufficient.

Her speech was contradicted by the conservative bavarian MEP
Dr. iur. Joachim Würmeling, who defended the practise of the
EPO as being correct and adequate.

In another very pro-swpat article at


Würmeling is quoted as saying

  "Wuermeling felt that the 'open source movement did not
understand the
  directive in depth.' Indeed, the German MEP saw the
proposals as offering
  'no real change' from the current patenting situation. He
also criticised
  the open source lobby for failing to come up with
alternative proposals."

This is strange, because Würmeling owns a hardcopy of the
paper "Counter Proposal" documentation which we distributed
at the hearing on 2002-11-07


and, amid all the irritation which he demonstrated toward
our side at the hearing, did make positive comments about
that documentation at sidetalks at this hearing.  

Würmeling himself certainly believes that he 'understands
the directive in depth'.  He enjoys a reputation of studying
issues in depth, and as a shadow rapporteur to the largest
party of the European Parliament, his understanding has a
chance of exerting great influence.  This may have seduced
him to an arrogant statement.  But there is still some time,
and there is no reason to believe that Mr. Würmeling is
intellectually less flexible than Mr. Kober.

Hartmut Pilch, FFII e.V. und Eurolinux-Allianz           
130000 Stimmen 400 Firmen gegen Logikpatente   
Bundesregierung Treiber der Textpatente in EU      
Received on Thursday, 5 December 2002 13:36:37 UTC

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.1 : Tuesday, 6 January 2015 21:06:48 UTC