German Parliament says: Stop Granting Software Patents
The German Parliament, the Bundestag, has introduced a joint motion against software patents. The resolution urges the German government to take steps to limit the granting of patents on computer programs.
In the resolution, the Parliament says that patents on software restrict developers from exercising their copyright privileges, including the right to distribute their programs as Free Software. They promote the creation of monopolies in the software market, and hurt innovation and job creation. [Correction 2013-04-24: Parliament did not yet adopt the motion, but rather decided to pass it to the parliament committees for further consideration.]
"Software patents are harmful in every way, and are useless at promoting innovation", says Karsten Gerloff, President of the Free Software Foundation Europe. "We urge the German government to act on this resolution as soon as possible, and relieve software developers from the needless patent-related costs and risks under which they are currently suffering."
Software patents are illegal under the European Patent Convention. Nevertheless, the European Patent Office has granted tens of thousands of patents covering software. As a result, software developers constantly risk being accused of patent infringement. This causes legal uncertainty which is costly for large companies, and potentially deadly for small ones.
The Parliament's resolution reminds the government that, under the EU's Computer Programs Directive, software is covered by copyright, not patents. It calls on the government to finally put the directive's "copyright approach" into practice, and make German law more concrete in this regard. It also points out that the restrictions which patents impose are incompatible with the most widely used Free Software licenses.
For any future initiative to reform European rules on copyright and patents, the Parliament asks the German government to make sure that developers' economic exploitation rights for their programs are not restricted by patents. The government should also push to ensure that software is covered by copyright alone, and that patent offices (including the European Patent Office) stop granting patents on software.
- Joint Motion approved by the Bundestag (in German, PDF)
- Background on software patents