Words by c.z.robertson

Petition against software patents in Europe

2000-07-05 01:00:00 UTC

I don't usually pay much attention to petitions, but in this case it's an issue I have a strong opinion on. (I figure it makes up for most people's complete indifference on the matter.) Currently patents on software techniques are prohibited in a number of European countries, but soon the European Commission will make a decision on whether they should be allowed throughout Europe.

In addition to my general dislike of patents, I have no doubt that software patents will be a significant factor reducing the ability of smaller companies and open-source projects to compete with the larger companies. This can only lead to reduced software quality since competition is the only factor that spurs companies to improve their work.

I also find it hard to believe that the introduction of patents will cause any significant increase in the amount of innovation in the computing industry. Email and the web were created without the promise of patent protection, as were spreadsheets and, I believe, relational databases and graphical user interfaces. I'm sure that similar developments are being made today, and I'd rather wait until we have a lack of innovation before we even consider making such damaging attempts to promote it.

In the USA, which has had patents on software for around 15 years, the issue is a controversial one at best. Why Europe should blindly copy a system about which even patent-holding businessmen have their doubts I don't know.

Anyway, I've ranted long enough. I don't believe in telling people what to do. It's patronising at best, and you shouldn't do something just because I tell you to. But there is a petition against software patents. I'd like you to sign it, but failing that I'd like you to give the matter some thought and, if this is something you're unfamiliar with, do some reading on the subject.

Failing that, I hope you enjoy my writing style. (I wouldn't want it all to be in vain.)