back to article Stallman storms in on Oz software patent conflab

GNU founder and free software mouthpiece Richard Stallman reportedly gatecrashed a European Patent Office meeting in Brisbane, Australia today. Stallman, who is in Oz to talk at the World Computer Congress, turned up with a placard that read: "Don't get caught in software patent thickets," reported iTnews. European patent …

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Rude and ungramatical

The placard should have read "Don't get caught in software patents, you thickets".

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Where would we be without him!

Patents would really harm innovation in IT, see:

http://eupat.ffii.org/int/intro/

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Grenade

@alain

I think you meant Software Patents not IT patents in general.

Patents in general are good.

Software patents are bad.

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Non-software patents are not necessarily good

That's overly simplistic. Software patents are bad, patents in general are a framework where we accept a period of restriction on the assumption that this stimulates development and innovation. This trade-off doesn't always work: http://mises.org/daily/3280

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Headmaster

Stallman storms in on Oz software patent conflab

"GNU founder and free software mouthpiece..."

Sounds a bit harsh. How about

"GNU founder and free software advocate..."

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Or

I rather like the term FOSSer.

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Lighten up

At least it's not "spokeswonk".

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Anonymous Coward

US/EU differences taken into account?

Though I admire the efforts and also have some doubts with regards to software patents I do wonder if Stallman keeps the heavy differences between the US and EU into mind. My guess is that he doesn't...

Where in the US people can patent the craziest of idea's and then actually start suing others over it, things work a little bit different in the EU. The most obvious example of that I can come up with is the SCO comedy....

Where SCO could sue several companies in an trial which lasted for months if not years (I didn't keep track) in the US they only tried this once in Europe while suing Mercedes. The result of that is well known; within a few weeks they were laughed out of court (figure of speech) and were warned not to try something like that again; if so they would be fined thousands of Euro's for slander and contempt of the court.

"And SCO was never heard from again"...

SO yeah; I do share Stallmans concerns but I do wonder if he keeps specific differences like these into mind as well. If not he could make himself look pretty stupid...

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Go

What is and what might be

The difference between the US and the EU is there. For now. But the EU patent office, which was represented i AU, makes no secret of the fact that it wants to extend its reach to software patents as well. The only thing holding them back from doing so are current EU laws.

The EU patent office would love nothing more than for AU to implement software patents. That would give them yet another country to point at, and say "see, they're doing it too, that's why we need software patents in the EU".

Stallman is reading things absolutely right.

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Boffin

Good point...

I think the problem here is that patents on software can be generated on very basic ideologies. In the USA you don't even have to build it for the patent to have control over you. That, I think is the basic issue. If it isn't built the patent shouldn't exist & that goes for software as well. How it works in the EU I don't understand but from what I've seen of the EU smacking Microsoft, Intel, Apple & I'd bet IBM in the distant past, your views are probably correct.

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Thx Stallman!

_O_

The irony! Europe not doing software patents and then lobbying in Australia for them. Don't know what the name of the "card" is that they are playing, but it seems double crossing to me ;)

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Jobs Horns

"There's no problem that requires a solution with anything like software patents."

But there are:

1) Fatcat lawyers hard hit by the recession and unable to afford a third Lamborghini. Ditto for "IP consultants" and other riffraff.

2) Large corporations that want to have a state-guaranteed monopoly on Idea Space and that also want to have a cheap way to preventively kill off any scurrying competitors.

3) State looking for arbitrary extensions of power to pull in the taxpayer dough and gurarantee the pensions of another batch of people that "need work". In lucky cases, the antitrust division can be activated to look into problems created as per point 2)

They are not problems that have anything to do with "driving innovation", but they _are_ problems.

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Balancing Fact with Fiction

On the one hand, there is probably some merit in objecting to software patent. On the other hand is ignorance on the workings of whole Patent system and how it works:

See http://bit.ly/8ZVYrr

http://www.theregister.co.uk/Design/graphics/icons/comment/flame_32.png

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FAIL

Ahh, RMS...

...making rational people look crazy by association. With friends like these, who needs enemies?

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At least he...

Got off his arse and did something about it. More than you armchair pundits.

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For once...

For once RMS seems not to be foaming at the mouth. Good luck in sticking to that, RMS!

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On a Jolly

One wonders what the EU Patent people are doing over there anyway, it's not their patch and they're wasting our money.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: On a Jolly

One wonders what the EU people are doing anyway, they're wasting our money.

There, fixed it for you.

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Badgers

Just say no...

I know that Australia != NZ... But before our lawmakers get it into their heads to play "follow the leader" with our cousins across the ditch, I'd like to register a resounding "Do Not Want!" to the possibility of software patents down under...

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What's that skippy

Australia is conservative and moronic. The gov. never has the peoples best interest in mind, just look at the filter

We in Aus are used to being shafted by gov and business with ripoff pricing and retarded politicians.

Welcome to the Patents Australia!

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Australia already has software patents

We already have software patents. IP Australia set the "innovative" bar very low and have poor review. So there is already have an amount of trolling.

Trolling is not more common because you need to patent your software invention in Australia to be able to enforce it in Australia. The EU and US would very much like mutual recognition of patents; or at the very least a "harmonisation" of rules which would allow the same paperwork which suffices overseas to be submitted in Australia without further expensive lawyering. Australia has differing precedents to other jurisdictions, and so even our definition of software is different to those overseas.

Needless to say, mutual recognition or harmonisation only has negatives for Australia. Australians seeking world-wide protection for their inventions are well used to dealing with the EU and US systems, and harmonisation would not remove that requirement.

For example, in the CSIRO WLAN patent an Australian-registered patent reading on the US patent system via "harmonisation" would have simply have given CSIRO's well-resourced opponents yet more opportunities to use legal argument to delay royalty payments. So in practice, best practice would be to ignore the "harmonisation" and apply for patents in each jurisdiction.

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Happy

CSIRO...

I'd bet the CSIRO wouldn't get away from paying software patents owned by M$, IBM, CISCO, Intel & the like. That patent runs very deep & it would be very nasty if it actually got passed. I can't see it happening but if it does, all major orgs would be giving Australia a very good living for a damn long time. That one is worth billions.

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Thanks Reg.

News to me, and I live in Brisbane. Thank you for your coverage. Nice to know that at least the register is watching out for me, even if my own media isn't.

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Big Brother

EU

Kind of puzzled that everyone on here can't work out what the EU is doing being involved with this.

The EU is a trading bloc not a philanthropic union, if they can gain competitive advantage in another market they will, even if they might not be too keen on it at home.

I am sure there are just as many software companies in Europe that would like software patents as American ones

As the saying goes, "Don't spit on your own doorstep!"

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re: SCO

SCO's problem wasn't the theory of patents, it was that they didn't own what they thought they owned.

Stallman does seem to have a grasp on both reality and Oz politics though - patents will be mostly owned by foreigners (US companies will just file their existing patents in Oz) and Australians really don't like foreign business.

Let's hope the politicians show a little more backbone than they have in the past.

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FAIL

Never let the truth get in the way of good publicity eh!

Firstly, I'll declare an interest, I'm a European and Australian qualified patent attorney (currently in Australia).

However, Mr Stallman and the bandwagon jumpers don't have their facts straight. There currenlty is **NO** bar to software patent in Australia (other than the normal requirements that the invention is new and not obvious).

The European Patent Office has much stricter requirements and specifically state that a patent cannot be obtained if it relates wholly to a computer program.

So, I would guess that the European Patent Office might have been giving the Australian Advisory Council on IP an idea of how their system works in practice. Rather than convincing Australia to "allow[s] software patents", as they already do! They might even have been there because the Australian Advisory Council on IP are considering implementing similar restrictions in Australia.

RE "on a Jolly"

The EPO (they are not EU Patent people as countries outside the EU are contracting states to the EPO) are constantly on jollies. They love to get invited to talk or go and visit comapnies who use their system in far flung places round the world. On the plus side, it's not your money, as the EPO is fully funded by the fees that patent applicants and propreitors have paid.

NB: I am not commenting on the correctness or otherwise of "software" patents.

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Another EP/AU attorney!

I'm also a European and Australian qualified patent attorney currently in Australia. I wonder which one you are - there aren't very many of us.

I agree: the Australian position on software patents is significantly more liberal than that of Europe or the US. It's pretty much an "any hardware" position (at least at the prosecution stage - looking forward to a High Court judgment on a relevant case ... ).

A move to a European "technical effect" position would, god help us, be a significant improvement (I know, "improvement" gives away something about my views on software patents, but I'm an "Anonymous Coward").

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Considering what the EPO is doing

They've granted a ton of swpatents already...

And then you have this lot that just want to have the current laws ignored...

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/09/07/eu_patent_court/

As far as I care EPO should get out or if not that be brought to heel and have their powers limited in such a way that granting swpats is near impossible in both a practical and theoretical sense.

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