Why We Will Lose the Software Patents Battle

I’ve written letters to MEPs. I’ve participated in online protests. I might even have gone to Brussels to protest if I could spare the time off work. But we aren’t going to win this one.

What’s that? “Don’t give up!”, I hear you cry. “There’s still hope!”. Is there? We are up against some powerful and well-funded vested interests, and we are not going to prevail unless we can mobilise thousands of people to contact the right representatives and make their views known. And hence we come to my point.

The main site dedicated to fighting software patents in Europe, at the Federation for a Free Information Infrastructure, is a confusing, verbose mess. It displays all the worst hallmarks of “Wikonfusion” – lots of links to vaguely related topics and no structure. There is nothing which tells me simply and concisely what the current situation is, and who I should be writing to this week. Their list of stuff you can do runs to 11 items, and five pages.

Last time I wrote to my MEP, it took me over an hour to gather enough information about the problem to be sure of what I was writing. I almost gave up several times. How many people did? This time round, I know that we’re at a crunch point, but I can’t find out what I’m supposed to do about it!

I don’t want to attack the people who are obviously doing a lot of hard work to achieve a massively important and worthwhile aim. It just frustrates and pains me that their sharp edge is being blunted by poor communication.

Update: I’ve just noticed an email in my very full inbox which tells me to respond if I want to do something. I will reply, and see what happens.

2 thoughts on “Why We Will Lose the Software Patents Battle

  1. patents promote innovation
    if everyone could copy anyone, then no one would b compelled to create a cool money making technology
    mozilla never did anything patent-worthy
    tabs, popup stop are old, just implemented better and find as you type is lame

  2. patents promote innovation

    You need to provide support for that assertion, because it’s not obviously true in all cases. You particularly need to explain how a patent system designed for the patenting of physical objects and methods is appropriate for software.

    I think patents are appropriate for physically-expressed inventions (although I think 20 years is probably too long; the rate of technological change has increased since that figure was set) but not for software. The key difference is that a piece of software is made up of literally thousands of ideas, all combined to make an innovative whole. Allowing patents on any of them just makes it impossible to legally write software at all.