Miranda Mowbray on Fri, 16 Jun 2000 23:15:47 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Re: EuroLinux Alliance announce anti-patents petition

I've just read Eurolinux Alliance's Petition to Save Software Innovation
In Europe, which I received via the Eurolinux Alliance, nettime, and the 
Cyber Society Live list.

I'm no fan of the current patents system, but I don't think that 
this campaign is helpful.  It's no use trying to "keep Europe free from 
software patents".  It's already possible to patent a piece of software 
in Europe.  It has been possible for years.  I should know, I have a 
couple of European patents for software myself. 

(Before you start throwing the rotten eggs, these are defensive patents;
I patented them for my employer so that my employer had some
intellectual property which they could use to bargain with a 
another company that was being uncooperative about the use of _their_ 
patents.  The fact that it's necessary to have this kind of patent 
even to be able to enter some product sectors is one of the consequences 
that I don't like of the current system.)

All you have to do to patent a piece of software in Europe is to word
the patent application correctly.  If your software is for constructing
hats, you describe your invention as a "System and method for 
constructing hats".  Technically speaking you're not patenting 
the software per se but any system which uses it, and the method 
by which the software does what it does.  

So the Eurolinux Alliance are barking up the wrong tree.  Instead of
trying to prevent "software" from being added to the list of things
that can be patented in Europe, which will not stop software from being 
patented as system and method, they should concentrate on more effective
ways of reforming the patents system.  Some good suggestions proposed
by others are shortening the period for which the patent is valid,
and/or having a trial period in which the pending patent is published 
but not yet valid, during which members of the public have the possibility 
to demonstrate prior art.  

Yours, Miranda Mowbray
Co-inventor of GB 2 311 441 A, EP 0 876 021 A1, GB 9901531.5, 
and WO 97/34397.
*** Important: I am speaking for myself, not for my employer. ***

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