froscon2009 - 1.0

Free and Open Source Software Conference

Georg Jakob
Day Day 2 (2009-08-23)
Room HS1/2
Start time 15:15
Duration 01:00
ID 374
Event type Lecture
Track Legal Issues
Language used for presentation German

Software Patents Today

The EPO-Referral, the Bilski case and directions for a possible patent reform

Do you still think that after the European Parliament's decision of 2005, and the recent decision of the Bilski case in the US, Software Patents aren't a "hot topic" anymore? The referral G3/08 of the questions on the patentability of computer programs at the European Patent Office might change the game once more. In the meantime, patents on computer programs are granted by patent offices and enforced by courts around Europe almost routinely. Ten years after the Eurolinux-Alliance was founded, this talk will explore the recent developments and explain how they are going to affect the software industry.

A decade after the Eurolinux alliance was founded and four years after the rejection of the Software-Patent-Directive by the European Parliament, neither patent offices nor politicians have learned their lesson: The European Patent Office (EPO) as well as national patent offices grant patents on computer programs while courts around Europe help to enforce them. Even in cases where such patents are revoked (rather sooner then later), like e.g. the gift-ordering patent EP0927945 by Amazon, Inc, the duration of the appeal itself is much to long, in some cases even coming close to the maximum lifetime of a patent.

While in the US, the Bilski case is perceived to have defined at least some useful limits for patentability, the political attempts to legalise software patents continue. Procedural reform proposals, supposed to "streamline" the patent system across Europe are among the tricks that are used to preserve and defend the - so far still illegal - status quo of the European Patent Office's granting practise. From this perspective, the referral G3/08 of the questions on the patentability of software to the EPO's Enlarged Board of Appeals can be seen as just one more attempt to circumvent the democratic decision of the European Parliament.

In addition to the summary of these rather worrying developments, examples of how patents currently in force actually work will be given, showing how such patents affect not only Free as well as proprietary Software but also every market or industry sector relying on software. It would be possible for example for the holder of a patent originally granted for a lawnmower, to sue the producer of a computer-controlled rocket system, if the patent contains only one slyly formulated claim on a computer program.