Bad news for the small fry: EC OKs Software Patents

The European Commission has approved the passage of the software patents bill. It now has to pass the European Parliament so it's not law yet but this is an important setback for small software companies/consultancies in Europe. Why? Well, imagine having to pay someone every time you use a progress bar.

That's how absurd software patents are.

Bill Gates said it best: "If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today's ideas were invented and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today. The solution to this is patent exchanges with large companies and patenting as much as we can." (Challenges and Strategy memo, May 16, 1991)

Of course, Bill had the means to gather together a multi-million dollar software patent portfolio to defend his company (and thus did.) Many of us don't have such means and this can only spell hardship for small businesses and open source software in Europe. Already there are over 30,000 patents that have been granted in the EU, waiting for this bill to pass so that they can be enforced.

What can you do? Here's what the FFII (Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure - UK) recommends:

If you live in the UK, you can FaxYourMP online. Write to your local MP as soon as possible with your concerns about software patents, and ask your MP to bring them to the attention of Stephen Timms MP, the minister for e-commerce at the DTI.

Read the full FFII recommendation on their web site.