No.: 479/2000 Berlin, 20 September 2000
Position paper on legal protection for software
DR. MAYER: MORATORIUM INSTEAD OF EXTENSION OF SOFTWARE PATENTS
For the Conference of European Patent Offices to begin on 20 November, the IT spokesman of the CSU group in the German Bundestag, Dr. Martin Mayer, submits the following position paper:
Instead of the planned general extension of patent protection to software in Europe, a two-year moratorium must be adopted.
At the "Diplomatic Conference 2000" of the European Patent Offices it is planned to delete "programs for computers" from Article 52, paragraph (2) of the European Patent Convention, which lists what is not regarded as a patentable invention, thus making it possible for software to be patented in general.
In specialist circles there are justified fears that the proposed amendment would
- strengthen and extend the monopoly status of major software companies;
- threaten the survival of small software companies and self-employed programmers;
- substantially slow down progress in software development.
A development as disastrous as that which is already becoming apparent in the United States must be prevented in Europe. Prior to further legislation on software protection, specialists and politicians must therefore conduct a thorough public discussion on the basis of the following principles:
1. Aims of legal protection for software:
- Legal protection must enable programmers and companies to reap the fruits of their labour. Financial remuneration, which can only be realized through legal protection, is the most important incentive for progress in software programming and application.
- However, legal protection must not lead to globally dominant monopolies being strengthened. It must encourage competition instead of hindering it. Above all, it must under no circumstances place small software companies and self-employed programmers at a disadvantage and threaten their survival.
2. Tailor-made legal protection for software
- Copyright was created to protect artistic and literary works. It also protects computer programs as linguistic works. However, copyright provides inadequate protection for software.
- Patents were introduced at the beginning of the industrial age to protect technical inventions. As regards their content and duration, they take inadequate account of the requirements of the knowledge economy.
- Software is something quite new and different from literary and artistic works and technical inventions. It is the fundamental tool of the information society and is entering ever new fields. A special tailor-made instrument of legal protection must therefore be created for it.
3. Demands addressed to the Federal Government
The Federal Government must therefore
- report to the German Bundestag on its position on legal protection for software so that a debate can take place on this question before the conference in November;
- urge that representatives of relevant organizations and parliamentarians be permitted to attend and speak at the conference;
- ensure that the conference does not decide to extend patent protection for software but that a two-year moratorium is adopted;
- ensure, through appropriate measures, such as forums, working groups, discussions of experts, that the discussion process is intensified and leads to a result that is viable in the long term;
As yet it is not too late to map out a policy course in Europe and prevent the patentability of software from being extended overhastily. It must be ensured that global monopolies are not strengthened and that no new, feudal and colonial power structures are set up in the information age.