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Press – September

In this section, the press is presented with up-to-date information about the nosoftwarepatents-award 2006 and other planned activities. We provide journalists with background insights as well as comments by experts and company representatives. Please contact:

    Harald Talarczyk, authentikom
    Tel: +49 228 / 2804949
    Fax: +49 228 / 2803250

Software patent threatens developers of spam- and virus filters

Monopoly right of the German Nutzwerk GmbH elected to be "Software Patent of the Month August" gewählt – Critics: German Patent and Trade Mark Office granted the patent on "filtering individually information" against law in force – Economic risks for developers of spam- and virus filters

5 September 2006. The software patent DE10048113 of the company Nutzwerk GmbH from Leipzig exposes the develpers of antivirus software to potentially very significant economic risks. E-mail filter systems are also affected. This results from the monopoly right required in the patent for filtering the information individually for every user within a network. A good reason for over 50 percent of all the voters to select this patent within the information campaign nosoftwarepatents-award nosoftwarepatents-award as the "Software Patent of the Month August". The Nutzwerk patent which was licensed in 2002 by the German Patent and Trade Mark Office is nominated for the election of the "Software Patent of the Year 2006" to take place in the autumn of 2006.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS has not received such a nomination. Its MP3 patent EP0719483, the license charge of which Thomson also collects in Europe, was temporarily on the same place with the "month winner" DE10048113 and only later was pushed to the second place (28% of all the online votes ) Altogether, the campaign manager Harald Talarczyk registers a record participation: "Over 4,700 Internet voters represent a growing number of participants. All the five software patents presented by us over the last month received innovation prizes. These prizes cast doubt on the technical and even economic competence of the juries. In August, the online voters were asked – just as in the previous months – to vote the most harmful of the software patents in their opinion". The circle of the former campaign partners: 1&1, GMX, mySQL, Red Hat and CAS has enlarged: the new-comer is Jedox GmbH, provider of open-source based Business Intelligence Solutions.

Critics: software patent granted against against law in force

The "Software Patent of the Month August" is formulated as a method patent and refers to "Devices and methods for filtering individually information transferred via network". The quite broadly specified monopoly claims patent principles which, according to expert-opinion, had been used for a long time before the granting of the patent. In the opinion of the experts, only this is enough to place the granting practice of the German Patent and Trade Mark Office in a bad light, because the so-called "state-of-the-art" was obviously not known there. Besides – the criticism goes on – the software patent should have never been granted in accordance with the law in force, because the European Patent Convention (EPC) has excluded the granting of software patents since the 1970ies.

Nutzwerk contradicts critics

This criticism is contrary to the position of René Holzer, manager and owner of Nutzwerk GmbH: The patent DE10048113 has offered the opportunity "to develop a core technology for the Internet and to make it ready for marketing in stages of a few years". Nutzwerk markets now the product on the basis of this principle Safersurf. René Holzer answers the question "which are the measures taken by Nutzwerk against the companies which infringe the patent DE10048113" as follows: "Each infringement on our patent must be individually verified and individually decided upon". It is not set down "to use the patent as negotiation material" in "negotiations with competitors". The main reason for applying for the patent DE10048113 is, the manager says, that it has become easier to receive foreign financing from the German banks, among others. (complete statement)

Unnecessary legal conflicts

Hauke Duden, technical director with Ashampoo Ashampoo, says about the "Software Patent of the Month August": "We watch such patents with concern. The patent seems to rely on methods which have been used for example by e-mail virus scanners for years. Thus it naturally appears the question if the patent should not have been rejected by the Patent Office for this reason only. This could bring to Ashampoo in its capacity as producer of firewall, antispyware and antivirus products unnecessary and efforts-consuming legal disputes. This means that, even if we finally impose ourselves, there would be lost with such patents so many resources which could be otherwise used for software development".

Medium-sized companies fear enforceable software patents

Marco Schulze comments in his capacity as speaker of Patentfrei.de Patentfrei.de: "This is a wonderful example of software patent: Very little, down to no innovation combined with an extremely abstract formulation and thus very comprehensive monopoly claims. If this patent – together with many thousands other software patents granted by EPO – became enforceable in Europe, the present, highly innovative, SME driven software sector would be turned into a legal battle field". (complete comment)

The patent of the month August is a great example for software patents: Little to no innovation combined with a very abstract formulation and thus extremely broad monopoly claims. If this patent - together with many thousand other EPO granted software patents - became enforceable in Europe, the currently highly innovative, SME driven software sector would be turned into a legal battle field.

Software patent disguised as method patent

The "Software Patent of the Month August" was also granted the Special Prize, which Nutzwerk received for its "patented real time data filter" within the Innovation Prizes of the city of Leipzig 2001. The Special Prize was donated by Roland Berger Strategy Consultants. The answer to the invitation to comment it was that ther was nothing to be added to the announcements of the year 2001. But there is no answer to the question how it comes that Roland Berger Strategy Consultants supports a company which straightforwardly ascertains on its website that it does not care about the fact that the software cannot be patented. One turns a 'software concept into a method' because the specification of "methods and devices" would permit the patent to be granted. "This corresponds to an indication how to avoid the exclusion of software patents from the scope of patent granting. We could not find out, whether this method was also considered worth the prize awarded", Harald Talarczyk comments.

The candidates for the election in September

Five new software patents selected by random are to be elected immediately at nosoftwarepatents-award.de. The software patents granted by the European Patent Office (EPO) are concerned with the statistics of defect products, navigation systems, and with the settlement of internet content as well as digital signatures. The readers and the interested persons are invited to vote for the software patent, which, in their opinion, is most harmful.