Press release AugustMobile surfing on the Internet is patent protected
"Software Patent of the Month in July" from Siemens monopolizes data exchange via a mobile radio network – August features "prize winning" software patents to choose from
2 August, 2006. A person surfing the Internet via cell phone and laptop for business violates intellectual property of Siemens AG. This is stated in the corporation's software patent EP0836787 , which was approved by the European Patent Office (EPO) in January 2004. The patent specifications outline a monopoly claim for the exchange of data packets via a mobile radio network between a mobile client and a server. In the scope of the nosoftwarepatents-award information campaign almost 45 percent of the Internet voters selected the Siemens patent as the "Software Patent of the Month in July". It is thus included in the nomination for the election the "Software Patent of the Year" to be held in the fall of 2006, which is sponsored by 1&1, GMX, mySQL, Red Hat, and CAS.
The patent specifications refer to a "Method of transmitting data packets according to a packet data service in a cellular mobile radio network provided for voice and data transmission". The main claim patents the combined transmission of "data packets" and "signalling information in one data protocol" between a mobile client ("subscriber station") and a server ("separate service network node"). This wording basically describes the fundamentals of the network protocols which are commonly used for mobile access to internet services.
Siemens patent affects the growing market
The patented methods are the basis for mobile technologies and applications, which are increasingly marketed in Germany as well. According to the ARD/ZDF-Online-Study 2006 34 percent of the Internet users in Germany can already log onto the web via laptop or cell phone. Besides mobile Internet surfers logging onto the web via laptop or Pocket PC, the Siemens patent also affects the e-mail communication via mobile telephone and the data transmission via WLAN.
Siemens AG informed the nosoftwarepatents-award organizers that it is not available for a statement. According to the Gauss statistics, over 30 percent of all German software patents are owned by Siemens AG. As in previous years, Siemens spearheaded the German patent statistics again in 2005. In Europe Siemens ranked second place in 2005. Siemens itself calls its own patent department "one of the largest patent law firms" in the world, which, in case of any patent infringement, would not shy away from "legal disputes" in order to secure its market position.
Patents must not hinder innovations
Prof.Dr.N. Pohlmann, specialist for Internet and mobile networks at the College of Applied Sciences at Gelsenkirchen, Germany, comments on the patent as follows: "The danger of such a software patent is that the interoperability between the involved communication partners is not ensured. The interoperability of communication systems in modern information societies is indispensable for economic growth. Without the transmission of data packets via cellular mobile radio networks we, as a knowledge and information society, would be going back to the Stone Age, something we should prevent under all circumstances." (complete comment)
Fearing competition hindrance
Achim Weiss, technology chief executive at 1&1 Internet AG and responsible for software developments, comments on the possible consequences in case patent EP0836787 is legally granted: " Siemens' software patent EP0836787 taking legal effect would affect many elementary Internet services as well as data loading via mobile communication connections. It could also hinder the competition for these services – and that with severe economic consequences. In the end the consumers would have to foot the bill by paying higher prices." (complete comment)
Campaign manager Harald Talarczyk outlines how the Siemens patent could take legal effect: "So far software patents of this kind cannot be legally implemented in Europe yet. But that can change quickly, for example if a centralized European Patent Litigation Agreement (EPLA) is introduced as is increasingly discussed by the European Commission ."
For patent expert Florian Müller the large number of software patents the European Patent Office has granted Siemens is not a sign of high innovation capability. "One has to ask oneself whether Siemens isn't about to become one of the world's largest patent trolls: unloading the actual device production to BenQ for instance, relocating the development to India, and flaunting vast amounts of software patent applications in Europe. Unfortunately, there are way too many politicians who would mistake such ventures for innovation and competitiveness."
Contenders for the August vote
Five new patents whose owners have been awarded with various different prizes for "outstanding innovation" are up for vote in August. The new contenders approved by the European Patent Office (EPA) deal with filtering Internet contents, MP3 encoding procedures, voice over IP, configurable input masks and printing on demand. Readers and interested individuals are invited to decide, whether these were deservingly granted protection rights for inventions, and to cast their vote for the, in their opinion, most damaging software patent.
Further information: Brief expert opinion "Interrelation between Interoperability, Patent Protection and Competition" by Prof. Dr. Norbert Pohlmann and Prof. Dr.iur Andreas Müglich,
University of Applied Sciences, Gelsenkirchen, Germany,