European rejection of software patents is a victory for open source

Posted by dave on Jul 6, 2005 1:47 PM EDT
Mailing list; By Eric S. Raymond
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The Open Source Initiative welcomes the news that European Parliament voted overwhelmingly today (6 July 2005) to reject a proposal that would have permitted American-style software patents in Europe.

In theory, a healthy software-patent system might reward innovators
and promote the worthy objective of the advancement of knowledge and
the useful arts.  In practice, American-style software-patent systems
have serious flaws, including weak patentability filters and failure
to systematically check submissions against important bodies of prior
art such as Internet open-source repositories.  Their effect is to
actually suppress innovation.  Real-world evidence of this suppression
is in "An Empirical Look at Software Patents"
.

The institution of American-style software patents in Europe would undoubtedly lead to the same abuses we have seen in the U.S., where patents are routinely deployed to prevent healthy competition in the software industry -- and aimed, especially, at the suppression of open source. Europe's "reform" seemed to us to be headed towards exactly the same unhappy result, inflicting great harm on software consumers, open-source programmers, and all independent developers.

We are pleased to see that the European citizenry understand that they have an interest in protecting their right to innovate. We are pleased that they have exercised their democratic prerogative to make their voices heard. We are pleased that numerous companies, small and large, European and American-based, have realized that software monopolies tilt against their interest. And we are pleased that Europe's elected legislators duly voted both the will of the people and good common sense. And while the battle is not yet won, we are hopeful that the decisiveness of this vote proves to be a catalyst not only for programming freedom and continued software innovation in Europe, but for the reform of obsolete and broken patent systems worldwide. -- Eric S. Raymond for the Board of OSI

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Correction: They voted more to make a point. WhoCares 4 1,254 Jul 11, 2005 1:22 PM

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