Monday, October 31, 2005

European Voice - European News, Views and Facts

One source that we would like to recommend as a basic resource for news, views and facts about the European Union is the publication European Voice ("EV") by The Economist Newspaper Limited.

The European Voice describes itself as "an independent view of the EU". Its main rubrics are Current News (News in Brief), Business & Industry (Business Brief), Special Report, Features, Analysis, Opinion (Viewpoints, Europa, What the papers say, Different Voices, Wilder Europe, Voice from the North, Europe Inside Out), Profile, Letters, Entre Nous [(Just) Between Us], EV Crossword, Diary, and Archive). In addition there are EU Services for EU Jobs, EU Studies, Conference, Seminars & Publication, Accommodation & Property in Brussels. There is also a Forum.
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European Voice - Europeans of the Year Awards - Vote Florian Mueller No Software Patents

I just received the posting found below from the FFII [Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure], and pass it on to those readers who wish to vote in the EV50 poll. Your vote will contribute to the battle against software patents [in our view, software is sufficiently protected by copyright law].
The categories to be voted on are:

Commissioner of the Year
MEP of the Year
Statesman of the Year
Diplomat of the Year
Campaigner of the Year
Business Leader of the Year
Journalist of the Year
Achiever of the Year
Non-EU Citizen of the Year
European of the Year

Please note that we support the vote for Florian Mueller but that we expressley do not support many of the other recommendations for voting made at NoSoftwarePatents.com - but you have to vote in every category to make your vote count, so we recommend you follow your own opinions as to who deserves the other awards. Here is the FFII e-mail message:

Dear supporter of the FFII,

The FFII has kindly enabled me to contact you with this campaign message on my own behalf. You are soon going to receive an email from the Board of the FFII. The FFII will announce this year's General Assembly, which is going to take place in Brussels on 29 November. If you plan to attend, please make a note in your calendar!

In the meantime, please consider voting for me (and other candidates who I recommend) in the public Internet poll for the "EV50 Europeans of the Year" awards, the most prestigious series of awards in EU politics. It would send a strong message to politicians, the press and the public if a vocal opponent of software patents were elected as the new "European of the Year". We can simultaneously ensure that a couple of our political allies, especially Michel Rocard MEP, also receive awards, while the proponents of unlimited software patentability (such as commissioner McCreevy) should come away empty-handed.

The poll is open to the worldwide public (including non-Europeans), and the idea is explained on this page: http://www.nosoftwarepatents.com/en/m/ev50/index.html
Specific voting recommendations are available on this page:
http://www.nosoftwarepatents.com/en/m/ev50/vote.html
Those pages are available in 14 languages. You will also find an email form on that site, which makes it quick and easy to inform others of this campaign, and banners for your website.

Richard Stallman (President of the Free Software Foundation), Tim O'Reilly(book publisher and conference organizer), Alan Cox (Linux kernel maintainer), Rasmus Lerdorf (PHP) and Monty Widenius (MySQL) have endorsed our voting recommendations in a press release: http://www.ag-ip-news.com/GetArticle.asp?Art_ID=2254&lang=en

Should I win, the FFII will receive the prize money, and will be duly credited in my acceptance speech and a subsequent press release.

In addition to the general information that you find on the website, let me also say a few things about the unique relationship between the FFII and myself.

By participating in an FFII conference in April of last year, I became more aware of the political controversy over software patents. By subsequently participating in various FFII activities, I realized that citizens like us can indeed influence a political debate. With the financial support of three corporate sponsors (1&1, Red Hat, MySQL), I then founded the NoSoftwarePatents.com campaign as a complement to the FFII's own website and lobbying. From the conceptual stage on, I cooperated closely with the FFII. Without the FFII, I would not have become involved, let alone been impactful or successful, in the fight against an ill-conceived piece of patent legislation.

About six months ago, I handed the NoSoftwarePatents.com site to the FFII, and if you look at the voting form for the EV50 awards, then you will notice that the NoSoftwarePatents.com name is right next to my name. I'm running on the NoSoftwarePatents ticket, and in the name of a website that will, hopefully, be a cornerstone of future FFII campaigns in the software patent context.

The FFII and I jointly received this year's CNET Networks UK Technology Award in the Outstanding Contribution to Software Development category. It would only have been fair if we had always been jointly nominated for such awards and honors, but even where that is not formally the case, it's still the way I view it in practice.

For your convenience, here is another link to the voting recommendations: http://www.nosoftwarepatents.com/en/m/ev50/vote.html

Thank you for considering to lend me your support, and once again, thanks to the FFII for everything! Best regards, Florian Mueller

Crossposted to LawPundit.
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Saturday, October 08, 2005

Digital Libraries Initiative of the European Union

We have been asked to join EUNews as a contributor and have made our first posting on the topic of:

EU Commission Advances Digital Libraries Initiative.

We refer also to our LawPundit posting on this same topic, which contains longer excerpts of the text of the referenced Commssion Communication.

Our postings to EUNews will relate to our selection of important news in the European Union and will involve little or no opinion.

By contrast, here on EUPundit, some of our postings are more in the nature of OP-EDs (opinion editorials).
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Saturday, October 01, 2005

Foreign Investment in the European Union (EU)

EUobserver.com reports that investment in the new European Union members states increased by 70 percent whereas investment in the old EU member states dropped by 36 percent in the year 2004.

It should be noted for the world as a whole that, on average, foreign direct investment (FDI) in developed countries decreased at the same time that FDI in underdeveloped countries increased. FDI is dominated - on average - to 2/3 by equity investment, with intra-company loans accounting for 23% (on average) and reinvested earnings for 12% (on average). The top spot in the world in terms of total amount of investment increase was occupied by Hong Kong (China), or 46% by percent increase.

The figures come from the World Investment Report 2005, 29 September 2005, prepared annually by UNCTAD, which can be downloaded directly from the UNCTAD website.

The report is 366 pages and there is also an overview of 50 pages available. The report is available in English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish.

Crossposted to LawPundit.

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No Patents on Computer Programs in Europe - A Judge's Opinion

In the England and Wales High Court (Patents Court) Decisions, we have found a readable opinion by Deputy Judge Mr Peter Prescott (sitting as a Deputy Judge) IN THe MATTER OF Patent Applications GB 0226884.3 and 0419317.3 by CFPH L.L.C., [2005] EWHC 1589 (Pat) in which Judge Prescott writes about "what is an invention" in the EU and about the prohibition of software patents in Article 52 of the European Patent Convention (EPC). We have omitted the footnotes and our excerpted text of the opinion is as follows:

"The reason why computer programs, as such, are not allowed to be patented is quite different. Although it is hotly disputed now by some special interest groups, the truth is, or ought to be, well known. It is because at the time the EPC was under consideration it was felt in the computer industry that such patents were not really needed, were too cumbersome (it was felt that searching the prior art would be a big problem), and would do more harm than good. I shall not go into details here but it is worth noting that the software industry in America developed at an astonishing pace when no patent protection was available. Copyright law protects computer programs against copying. A patent on a computer program would stop others from using it even though there had been no copying at all. So there would have to be infringement searches. Furthermore you cannot have a sensible patent system unless there exists a proper body of prior art that can be searched. Not only are most computer programs supplied in binary form – unintelligible to humans – but most of the time it is actually illegal to convert them into human-readable form. A patent system where it is illegal to search most of the prior art is something of an absurdity.
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Recently, the scope of this exclusion has been under re-consideration by the European Union. The Commission wanted to harmonise the law by defining the line between inventions that are properly patentable and mere computer programs. Although not strictly relevant to what I have to decide, I must admit I watched developments with some anxiety. Had the proposal succeeded it would have entrenched a test involving 'technical contribution' and 'technical features' that I suspect is too vague to be workable at the margin. On 6 July 2005 the proposed directive was defeated in the European Parliament and it will not be re-introduced."


Prescott has an equally cogent statement on the exclusion of patents for business methods:

"Now let us consider business methods. What is the policy reason that lies behind the exclusion of those? It is because, historically, patents for business methods were never granted yet business innovation went on very well without the benefit of that protection and without the red tape. Businessmen have been every bit as inventive as engineers. It was probably business administrators (and not poets or priests) who made the greatest "invention" of all time: phonetic writing. Consider as further examples: the invention of money; of double-entry bookkeeping; of negotiable bills of exchange; of joint-stock companies; of insurance policies; of clearance banking; of business name franchising; of the supermarket; and so on. None of these needed patent protection to get started. A patent system is always a burden on trade, commerce and industry: if only because of the "red tape" effect. The only question is whether the benefits outweigh the burdens. That has to be demonstrated by those who assert it is so, and in any case the decision is for the legislature. In this country and in Europe the legislature has not yet been persuaded."

Everyone interested in intellectual property law should read this beautifully written decision.

Via Out-Law.com (hat tip).
See also European Patent Convention (EPC)
nipc IP/it Update (nipcLaw Blog) - at that site Oracle, Software Patents Revisited

Crossposted to EUPundit.

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