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nosoftwarepatents-award focusses on threat posed by software patents

February 21, 2006. By announcement of the nosoftwarepatents-award 2006, a new information campaign on the topic of software patents is being launched. The initiative of 1&1 Internet and GMX is, up to now, supported by mySQL, red Hat and CAS Software. The objective is to raise awareness of the dangers associated with the granting of software patents ("computer-implemented inventions"). Against this background, the Website www.nosoftwarepatents-award.com every month provides five specific examples of software patents, of which the patent offices have granted thousands throughout Europe. The patents are explained by experts in a manner which is comprehensible to the general public. Within a very short time, Internet users will understand the consequences and dangers evoked by individual software patents. Subsequently, every user is free to vote which of the afore-mentioned patents should be be the "softwarepatent of the month". In the final online-voting, annonced for the autumn of 2006, will be elected one of the "softwarepatents of the month" which should receive the nosoftwarepatents-award 2006.

The nosoftwarepatents-award 2006 is intended to distinguish the existing patent which, according to the opinion of the users, is particularly harmful. Furthermore, www.nosoftwarepatents-award.com serves as a forum and point of contact for all those who wish or are forced to confront the problems caused by the existence of software patents. The information campaign provides access to further background information and allows users to contact the organisations and initiatives.

The campaign was motivated by the fact that thousands of software patents have been granted in Europe since the eighties - despite the European Patent Convention (EPC, Article 52) of 1973, according to which programs for data processing facilities are not patentable. The later attempt to gain recognition of granted software patents by means of a new EU directive failed in the European Parliament in July of 2005. However, this decision had no impact on the inconsistent granting of software patents on the part of the patent authorities. Consequently, critics are dreading the preparation of new steps which could enforce such patents in some other way not involving an EU directive.

Kaj Arnö, responsible for community relations at MySQL, declares: "Software patents involve more damage than benefit for the economy. Contrary to the thesis of the advocates of software patents, the software industry does not rely on patents for its innovations. Best evidence: Worldwide, in Europe and also in the USA, have emerged highly-innovative software sectors, without the use of patents. The award-campaign shows how claims and descriptions of software patents miss the mark of stimulating innovations."

"A reasonable number of studies show that software patents are not stimulating innovation. Rather, a proliferation of software patents proves to correlate with a reduced intensity of R&D activities. As a consequence Europe should not liberalize its restrictive software patent regime. redHat maintains its stance against software patents. We promote regulations which do not force companies to own software patents for defensive purposes, in consideration of the fact that they live in a world where such patents are permitted, for example in the US. The nosoftwarepatents-award-campaign supports the efforts of companies defending their interests against patent arsenals accumulated in large corporations and against patent attorneys, who seem to be the only winners in the game of software patent Monopoli", states Mark H. Webbink, Senior Vice President and Deputy Counsel of RedHat.

"By providing specific examples, the conferral of the nosoftwarepatents-award 2006 makes the danger caused by software patents tangible, thus raising the public's level of awareness. Particularly American and Japanese companies own around 70 percent of the software patents granted in Europe. They continue to hope that the relevant existing European laws will be annulled at some stage, allowing them to draw financial benefits from their patents. This would be the end for a large number of small and medium-sized enterprises, because they would not survive the game of patent poker against powerful conglomerates", says Achim Weiss, Technology Manager with 1&1 Internet AG and in charge of the company's software development.

"The argument surrounding software patents is going into the next round. In this context, we want to clear up the lobbyist fog which is known to obstruct the view of certain facts. The nosoftwarepatents-award is meant to present the circumstances which prompted the campaign in as precise and comprehensible a manner as possible - software patents granted by European patent authorities, the existence of which is still denied by persistent advocates of so-called computer-implemented inventions (CII). The term "software patents" has asserted itself against CII by now, which is fortunate because it unambiguously describes the issue at hand", ascertains Harald Talarczyk, who manages the campaign nosoftwarepatents-award.