Open letter Italian companies on software patents

By EDRi · July 27, 2005

On 19 July 2005 a group of Italian small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) and business associations sent an open letter to the Minister of Innovation and Technologies, Mr. Lucio Stanca. In the letter, the businesses call for a thorough reform of the European Patent Office. The letter was sent after the European Parliament rejected with a striking majority the proposed directive on the patentability of computer implemented inventions, better known as the software patent directive. Signers include Assoprovider, Assosoftware, CIRS, Registro Informatici, Zucchetti and others.

The letter welcomes the rejection of the Directive and, in what can probably be interpreted as a touch of irony, agrees with the official press release of the Ministry, which expressed ‘regret’ for the rejection, since “Europe needs a clear legal framework on this issue”. At the same time, the Ministry agreed that “no directive is better than a bad directive”. The Ministerial press release closed with the hope that the ‘ideological positions’ that had emerged in the past could be put aside in order to reach a general consensus across Europe on this sensitive topic.

The open letter agrees with Mr Stanca on the ‘ideological’ bit, since the proponents of software patentability “have mystified reality, speaking of a non-existent majority of SMEs (…) who were in favour (of software patents), and falsely claiming that software patentability as such would encourage research and development”.

The open letter invites Mr Stanca to act on behalf of Italy in order to reform the European Patent Office (EPO), putting it under true democratic control, and to make null and void all illegal software patents that have been registered as of today.

Asked about the reasons for the letter, Roberto Galoppini, president of the Consortum Italicum Ratione Soluta (a group of Italian SMEs working with Open Source Software) and promoter of the initiative, answered: “Patents, in spite of being originally created to stimulate innovation, are having the opposite effect in the IT world. This is clearly demonstrated by the difficulties encountered by North American companies, who must cope with a huge ‘minefield’, with no chance to avoid ex-ante lawsuits and requests for royalty payment. Patents are a medium toward uncertainty, and they affect our growth and ability to interoperate with others’ programs, because of the patent pro attitude of important standard setting organisations like OASIS. Europe won’t gain any advantage by allowing for software patents.”

Giacomo Cosenza, CEO of Sinapsi S.p.a. and one of the most vocal adversaries of software patents in the recent lobbying struggle, adds: “In my opinion the rejection of the CII directive on 6 July showed that we, as European citizens and entrepreneurs, can be very effective in helping our national and European representatives to better understand the relationship between software patents and the software industry in Europe. Now it’s time to move on and verify
EPO’s current practice in accepting software patent submissions. Has the Italian Minister for Innovation and Technologies a clear position on this issue? Could we be more collaborative with each other?”

No response has been issued by the Ministry of Innovation and Technologies as of today.

Text of the Open Letter to Mr Stanca

Consortium Italicum Ratione Saluta

Italian Ministry of Innovation and Technologies

(Contribution by Andrea Glorioso, Italian consultant on digital policies)