However, European law still says that programs for computers are, like aesthetic creations and mathematical methods, as such not patentable inventions. In November 2000, a long-planned move to delete these provisions from the law failed, due to an unexpected broad opposition, led by the FFII. In September 2003, the FFII led a successful effort to persuade the European Parliament to reaffirm the written law and vote for clear exclusion of software solutions from patentability.
However, parliaments have only very limited influence on lawmaking in present-day Europe, and an alliance of governmental patent bureaucracy, patent lawyers and large corporations has meanwhile struck back. We have been able to fully unmask this alliance and force it to visibly resort to anti-democratic maneuvering and breaches of procedural rules. Yet, due to the lack of checks and balances in the EU system, they managed to bring their proposal for unlimited patentability over procedural hurdles. Now the European Parliament has three months to obtain an majority of component member (whoever is absent counts as pro-Council) for amendments that reimpose real limits on patentability.
In spite of these requirements, the Parliament now stands good chances to reaffirm at least some of its key amendments. It can then be in a drivers seat in a conciliation procedure against an embarassed Commission and a split Council. Yet the risk is high that during this process the clear position of September 2003 will deteriorate. If, on the other hand, we succede in maintaining clear exclusions, the Commission and Council can be expected to resort to killing the directive project. They have the right to do this during many occasions in the procedure.
Although this prospect may seem frustrating and unrewarding, it is likely that the MEPs will want to choose this route. And without doubt, this route also gives us a highly valuable opportunity to raise public awareness and melt the ice which the patent lobby has accumulated over the last decades and centuries. This however requires that we unite the world of independent activists with the software business world. We need to organise a sustained, well-financed and continuously growing movement which the other side can no longer ignore.
So far, imfinancial ressources have been the main asset of the patent lobby, and we have witnessed and can further expect a firestorm of lobbying in the European Parliament during the coming months. If we do not perform well, the battle is over very soon. If we perform well, we may impress the established power structure so much that even in the Council and Commission the diehard pro-patent support will crumble.
The activists of FFII are meanwhile experienced and highly motivated. They have already proven that they give donors much greater value per euro spent than most of the activists of the pro-patent camp.
Below you find some of the priority projects for which money needs to be spent.
Our office currently consists in a room in the office of the Confederation of European Associations of Small and Medium Enterprises (CEA-PME) in Brussels, which costs us 300 EUR per month.
Our first candidate for this is Erik Josefsson. Erik is very knowledgable about patent caselaw and EU rules and a genius in networking in the European Parliament. He enjoys the trust of key MEPs and assistants. In his home country Sweden, a renowned magazine lists him among the "50 most powerful IT persons in Sweden". We owe very much of our success of September 2003 to him. If we want him to be able to concentrate on his work in Brussels, we need to pay him 2000 eur per month.
There are several other FFII activists who have proven their effectiveness in moving political groups and national governments in our direction. Many of these will want to come to Brussels for temporary stays, involving considerable travel expenses. The more of them we can keep concentrating on our work, the better. In some cases, smaller sums such as 600/month already can make a big difference.
It is moreover necessary, especially during the upcoming period in the European Parliament, to have people who are permanently available to provide quick advice and usable texts to MEPs. Again the commitment of these people must be secured.
See "program of the last conference".
We have been planning for a conference to be conducted later this year.
Once such conference costs 20000 EUR.
Many people in the Brussels institutions, especially the European Parliament, regularly read our software patent news ticker. It has become the source of the most accurate reporting on the issue, combined with an encyclopedia-like knowledge repository. We have de facto become the Europe's leading news agency for software patent news.
Several people have been working day and night to process incoming news submissions into press releases and documentation pages. But often at important moments the work is not done. The number of competent activists is still limited. Several people would be available to work full-time or at least half-time. 1000-2000 eur per month payed to some news writers as well as maintainers of underlying software systems could dramatically improve the situation.
There has also been talk about a possible transfer of Nosoftwarepatents.com to FFII. This would have to be done by our media team, and this team would have to be strengthened by regular payments before it can take up such a job.
The "Economic Majority" campaign itself needs a new website which highlights testimonies of the participating companies, with nicely prepared sympathetic documentation, so as to bring us closer to some of the people who do not understand software and patents. Preparations for this are under way, and here again, fairly unrewarding permanent work is required and must be paid.
We need to be able to provide more accurate information about the current status of the patents in various fields granted by the EPO and elsewhere.
Currently the only database which provides data about the category of "software patents" at the EPO is the one which we provide. The categorisation and the involvement of the public must be refined.
This work helps us gain competence in patent policy benchmarking and helps us address the problems of many people in the community of potential patent infringers. It also forms the basis of our participation in the research community and our role as a co-organiser of conferences and surveys which involve this community.
During the hot phase in the Parliament, it will moreover allow us to refute propaganda of the big patent bullies (Nokia, Siemens etc) and to document in detail with accurate data how these patent bullies are harming industry and consumers with their aggressive patenting strategies and huge portfolios of broad and trivial monpolies. It needs to be more widely recognised that, whenever the subject of innovation policy or patents is raised, patent bullies and their lobbyists have no moral authority whatsoever to speak on this subject. Part of this work can possibly be performed by our partners in the research community.
We need people regularly working on this. The costs can be estimated as similar to those estimated for the "social engineering" work above.
At certain junctures of our campaign it would have been extremely useful for us to place advertisements, and many supporters have proposed it, but this would become realistic only by adding six-digit sums to our budget.
|Sustained Presence in Brussels/Strasburg: office, Erik, 3 part-time helpers (5000 eur per month)||60,000|
|1 Conference in Brussels||20,000|
|Media Work (5000 per month for 3-4 paid helpers)||60,000|
|Printed Materials (2500 per month for 1-2 paid helpers)||60,000|
|Patent Database (2500 per month for 1-2 paid helpers)||30,000|
|Media Advertisement Campaigns (realistic only with at least 100000 eur)||100,000|