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EU Anti-Patent Lobbyist Steps Down

By Jennifer LeClaire
Mar 31, 2005 1:19 PM PT

One of the most vehement opponents to European patents is throwing in the towel before the fight is officially over. Florian Mueller announced today that he is stepping down as manager of NoSoftwarePatents.com, the European anti-software patent campaign, and returning to his computer games business.

EU Anti-Patent Lobbyist Steps Down

"Even though lobbying efforts can still be very influential, the fact that this person has decided to step down shows the current posture in Europe. It looks like the patent law is going to pass," Michael Q. Lee, an attorney with Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox, told LinuxInsider. "That's not to say that it's over because it still can be amended."

Still Lobbying

The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII), the leading organization that opposes software patents in Europe, is taking over NoSoftwarePatents.com, which became known for not mincing words in its criticism of companies and organizations that lobby for software patents. The FFII is a non-profit group dedicated to the spread of processing literacy.

"NoSoftwarePatents.com is by far the best introductory Web site on the subject of computing idea monopolies to date", said FFII President Hartmut Pilch.

"Florian Mueller has contributed an important missing link between various communities. Together with 1&1, Red Hat and MySQL, our media team will now leverage the NoSoftwarePatents.com platform to further boost the morale of the large majority of companies and individuals whose freedom and productivity is currently under threat."

Regrouping Reactions

Mueller said "after a fantastic year in politics" the time has come for him to resume his computer game project. But he added that he would still be involved in the fight against software patents from time to time.

The NoSoftwarePatents sponsors approved the transfer of the site to the FFII and said they would work with the FFII in a similar way as they have in the past.

"MySQL AB believes in copyright law as the proper mechanism for protecting the rights of software authors, and we consider software patents harmful to the industry at large," said Marten Mickos, CEO of Swedish database company MySQL AB.

"Together with 1&1 and Red Hat, we funded the creation of the NoSoftwarePatents.com platform, and prior to that we had already been supporting Florian's political work for several months. NoSoftwarePatents.com has had an enormous impact, and we are excited to be working closely with the FFII."

EU Patent Directive Case Status

Earlier this month, on March 7, the EU Council adopted its common position on software patents. The Council's proposal is now on its way to the European Parliament, which is widely expected to begin a second reading in mid-April and to vote on possible amendments, or rejection, in early July.

In order to take any such decision, the Parliament now needs a majority of its component members, which represents a minimum number of 367 votes irrespective of absences and abstentions. If the Parliament amends the proposal, then it goes back to the EU Council and then on to a possible conciliation proceeding, which in turn might be followed by parallel third readings in both institutions.

Fighting to the End

Mueller believes that the takeover of NoSoftwarePatents.com "will further cement the FFII's leadership role." He pointed out that his biography on the campaign site had been stating all along that he "temporarily interrupted his own software development project" in order to campaign against software patents.

Lee said the saga is certainly not over yet, noting that lobbying efforts on each side are influential and so far, the anti-software patent movement has been successful in delaying a patent law.

"This directive has been moving through the legislative halls of European government since 2002," Lee said. "It's been up for a vote a number of times. Each time anti-software patent lobbying efforts have been part of the reason why it has not passed yet."

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