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Community: The current stance of the goverment of the Netherlands on software patents

Mar 15, 2001, 21:42 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Uuk Van Dijk)

[ Thanks to Fred Mobach for this update: ]

As can be read on some _interesting_ mailinglists :

Date: Wed, 14 Mar 2001 13:54:58 +0100
From: Luuk van Dijk 
To: discussie@opensource.nl, patents@aful.org
Reply-To: Luuk.van.Dijk@xs4all.nl
Subject: [Patents] Dutch parliament orders govt. to FIRST arrange the obviousness
and tecnicallity BEFORE allowing swpats


Today in a parliamentary hearing a majority of coalition and
opposition party MP's instructed the dutch secretary of state
of Economic affairs to

        - first arrange thorough obviousness and novelty tests in the
          patent system

        - define 'technicality' well

        - ONLY AFTER THAT allow software patents.

        - actively promote this view in the EU

The test criteria are to be drafted by FENIT, the dutch IT branche
organisation and VOSN, the dutch Open Source organisation, who, 
we may humbly add, got the item on the dutch political agenda in the first
place.  Clearly the 30.000 software patents, and their level of absurdity
are on the agenda now.

The hearing was, to the untrained political ear a bit absurd. 
First Hindriks (PvdA), Udo (VVD), van Walsem (D66) and van der Hoeven
(CDA) each stated their concerns: broadly speaking that trivial patents
on software and business methods were worse than no patents.  Then
the secretary of state hurried to state how thoroughly he agreed, followed by
almost the same arguments as 3 months ago that the law was unclear which
put SME's in an unfavourable position compared to large companies, followed
by the wish to 'clarify the law'.  All this sounded -again, to the untrained
political ear- as if he thought the problem was something completely different
than the MP's, namely that it was difficult for SME's to get a patent!

But then finally, Hindriks 'summarized' the statements of the secretary of
state by asking 'so you are going to oppose software patents until the
obviousness criteria are in place' to which the secretary answered 'yes'.
So apparently -- this the MP's told me afterwards -- the Secretary got the
message, and Victory is Ours!

The criteria already mentioned by the MP's were the ones VOSN and FENIT
already agreed upon:
        - patent claims for software have to be accompanied by a working
          piece of code. (its amazing that this has to be mentioned, really)

        - the invention has to involve an experiment, which has to be
          proven by the applicant

The VOSN and FENIT are currently debating further criteria and the extent
to which they should be explicitly formulated.  The system mentioned
earlier on this list --- in which the applicant has to publish the problem he
claims to have solved together with a `bounty' which is lost if someone
else comes with the same solution within a short period ---
is far to radical for FENIT, whereas just mentioning 'that it has to be new'
in the law and giving more money to the patent bureaus is completely 
unsatisfactory to VOSN.

Furthermore, VOSN wishes to see explicit rules which state that the mode
of reasoning that goes 'software makes electrons move, therefore it is
technical' is unambiguously forbidden, in other words, the clear delimitation
of what is technical and what is not should put 'software as such' on the
latter side.

VOSN could use a little help in drafting these criteria, so members or
likewise inclined with a background in law and some spare time are kindly
requested to contact the VOSN's secretariat (see www.vosn.nl)

Finally, VOSN is a bit worried about the conduct of the European Union's 
Directorate General for the Internal Market.  All this national democracy
is very nice of course, but European Guidelines tend to pretty much overrule
it.  A public letter to F.Bolkestein expressing our worries has been published
by Eurolinux at http://www.eurolinux.org/news/pr0101/dgltr/

Further news in due time,
        Luuk van Dijk


Patents maillist  -  Patents@liberte.aful.org

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