[Note: This is something of a repost of an earlier entry. This was originally posted two days ago, but some sort of bug in the Deepest Sender LJ client caused it to be deleted when I tried to edit it. (Specifically, I was trying to fix the <div> so that IE (and IE's horribly broken CSS support) didn't choke on it (IE can handle 'em' for specifying sizes, but not percentages, apparently))]
I have some very strong opinions regarding copyright and patent laws. In particular, I think that software patents (including "business method" patents) are among the most horrible, short-sighted, and flat out idiotic, things in existence. Their existence in the US over the past 20 has, in so many case, caused serious harm to software developers, small companies, and end users.
One of the only good things about software patents is that they're fairly US-centric (well, and in Japan, and I believe Australia). In other words, the European Union doesn't currently recognise them. This has allowed me to hold out hope that someday the US PTO will pull its head out of its ass, and start following the EU way. Unfortunately, there is a group of morons in Europe, in particular The EU Council of Ministers, who are doing everything in their power to circumvent the democratic decisions made by the EU Parliament.
So, I was really happy when I first heard about this the other day, but I've only now had time to really look into it. To provide a little more background, here is a reprint of the article from Ars Technica:
While the US is embroiled in a mess
of software patent litigation, Europe has largely avoided the problem because of different patent law. It is now beginning to look
as though Europe might be able to steer clear of it altogether, as Germany has decided to vote against any changes to current software patent laws. Germany's decision flies in the face of the European Commission (the same body which levied the 500 million fine
against Microsoft), which wants to rewrite European patent law to allow for patents of software features for the first time in Europe. In a statement given to demonstrators in Germany, Federal Department of Justice Minsterial Director Elmar Hucko read the riot act to the EC:
"Under no circumstances do we want American procedures in Europe, Hucko vowed with regard to the US patent process. A patent must be "a fair reward for a bona fide invention and not abused as a strategy to bludgeon competitors."
Those who have been watching the EC lately
know, however, that their patent aspirations go beyond what is currently practiced in the US, making Hucko's statement somewhat inflammatory.
In September 2003, the European Parliament decided against altering EU patent law, despite the EC's pushing for the patentability of software. Not long afterward, the EC decided to try an end run around the European Parliament and get national patent administrators to sign on, which would have the same effect. With the largest member of the EU now on record as opposing the EC's software patent directive, and French IT industry leaders stridently lobbying thier government to vote against the patent changes, it looks as though the EC may be stymied for the time being.
Serving as background for the entire discussion is the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). One of its stated aims is standardize patent laws worldwide, and right now the US and EU are at odds over whether software patents are a Good Thing. In the best of all possible worlds, the US would reform its own patent system and the calls for doing just that are growing louder. Some sort of compromise will need to be reached on both sides of the Atlantic if any agreement on the patentability of software is to be reached.
All I have to say is, "Go Krauts! You rock!".