Joakim Nygård Archive Linked About

Software Patents in Europe

13 Dec 2010

Back in 2007, Jeff Atwood wrote a post on the dangers of software patents, sadly more relevant than ever:

Think about that for a minute. Seriously think about it. Every time you write code – even a brand new algorithm in a clean room environment – you could be infringing a patent, somehow, somewhere.

I strongly believe that the potential harm to society from software patents is far greater than the limited benefit to single entities like individuals or companies. Algorithms – and that is what computer programs are, applied mathematics if you will – should not, in my opinion, be patentable.

I agree that inventors should receive protection for a limited time and to a limited extent to reap the benefits of their hard work, but copyright handles this fine (althought I think copyright legislation, in some cases, has been taken too far in that direction).

Earlier this year the German high court ruled all software potentially patentable, an enormous blow to the fight against software patents in Europe. With Germany being the largest economy of the EU, it is likely that this will spread to other countries and eventually be incorporated into EU law.

There are several initiatives to stop software patents and they are fighting an important battle to keep us from the lawsuit mess that is so common in America.

As many large corporations become increasingly worried about the current US patent system, groups in Europe seems eager to follow in the wrong direction. What is needed is a more balanced set of regulations between the interests of corporations and society and software patents is not in society’s interest.