European Patent Process Under Review in New Study Sponsored by Open Source Risk Management; Launched at European Software Patent Conference; OSRM Says Legal Costs Could More Than Double If EU Allows Software Patents

Nov 08, 2004, 00:00 ET from Open Source Risk Management

     BRUSSELS, Belgium, Nov. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Open Source Risk Management
 (OSRM), the only vendor-neutral provider of Free and Open Source Software
 (FOSS) risk mitigation and management solutions, today announced the launching
 of a study designed to assess whether current European laws regarding
 technology patents achieve their stated objective of recognizing and
 protecting true innovation.
     Through this "Patents and Prior Innovations Project," volunteers in the
 FOSS community will be invited to help write a history of software innovation,
 focused on tracing the technical history of patents recently identified as
 relevant to the City of Munich's Linux migration.  The work will be done on
 the Grokline website ( under a Creative Commons
 license (, with the intention
 of presenting the resulting report to the European Parliament.
     "This project is being launched at a critical time - just as Europe
 considers whether to align its patent system closer to that of the United
 States - a system that has a poor reputation within the software community,"
 said Brian Kahin, Visiting Professor at the University of Michigan, formerly
 Senior Policy Analyst at the White House Office of Science and Technology
 Policy.  "Assessing whether patent history actually reflects intellectual
 history is an important test of the value of the patent system as well as of
 individual patents.  Software is unique in that it may be easier and certainly
 more satisfying to create than to document.  This means that it can be
 difficult and costly to determine just who did what first - which is what
 patents are supposed to do.  In many cases, the software community has stepped
 forward with prior art that has helped defeat aggressive use of particular
 patents.  This project is the first systematic undertaking to examine and
 evaluate the patent threat over a larger area - in this case, a major platform
 on which billions of dollars in investments are riding.
     "A patent system that misidentifies true innovators and fails to allow
 sufficient review by outside parties is an expensive one," said Daniel Egger,
 OSRM founder and chairman.  "In the U.S., the average cost of patent
 litigation is about $3 million per lawsuit.  Under such a system, those to
 whom a patent legitimately belongs must go to court to claim their benefits
 and protection - a costly and unfair tax on those who produce beneficial
 innovations.  OSRM estimates that as much as fifty percent of the cost of
 defending against software patents is due to patents that never should have
 been granted in the first place."
     OSRM's "Patents and Prior Innovations Project" will be launched
 November 9, 2004, at an international software patent conference in Brussels,
 "Regulating Knowledge: Costs, Risks, and Models of Innovation," which will
 bring together academics, policy makers and business leaders to assess the
 global impact of software patents.  The conference is timed to help educate
 European policy makers as the Parliament reconsiders whether to accept liberal
 European Patent Office practice or to reassert the European Patent
 Convention's clause precluding computer program patents.
     "Our primary intention with this project is to offer data and insight that
 we hope will help the European Union make an educated and prudent decision
 regarding software patents, and, specifically, to help prevent them from
 replicating mistakes made under the United States' patent system," continued
 Egger.  "At the same time, we are building a collection of the technical
 community's knowledge of innovation in software development, which can be used
 as a resource for years to come by historians, legal scholars, patent
 researchers and others.  We hope to arrive at a community-built resource rich
 with factual contributions that are credible and in the aggregate tell a
 compelling story.  That story will be a history of true innovations in
     Structure of OSRM Patent Project
     The specific focus of the project will be evaluating the "Munich list" of
 patents, one by one.  Participants will contribute their knowledge of code,
 documents, books, articles, theses, conference reports, working papers,
 presentations, and memos, as well as personal recollections.  "Challenging and
 successfully debunking a single patent or a group of patents or even a
 majority of patents is not the point of this project," says Len Newman,
 attorney and software developer who has joined OSRM to head the project full-
 time.  "The overarching research question is how patent law, as actually
 applied in recent years, has measured up to the real history of innovation in
 software.  This is a question the Grokline community is uniquely capable of
     More information about the project can be found on the Grokline homepage
     Software Patent Conference: "Regulating Knowledge: Costs, Risks, and
 Models of Innovation"
     Sponsored by the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII)
 (, Maastricht Economic Research Institute on Innovation
 and Technology (MERIT) (, the Confederation
 Europeenne des Associations de Petites et Moyennes Entreprises (CEA-PME)
 (, the Open Society Institute (,
 and The Greens | European Free Alliance in the European Parliament
 (, the conference will bring together economists,
 software professionals, and policy makers to assess the global impact of
 software patents.  The first day will examine several important issues in
 depth.  The second day of the conference will be held in the EU Parliament
 Building, with members of the European Parliament in attendance, and will
 focus on policy issues and context.
     At the conference, U.S. patent law and Free and Open Source Software
 experts, including Bruce Perens (Open Source community leader and OSRM
 Director), Dan Ravicher (President and Executive Director of Public Patent
 Foundation), Len Newman (OSRM patent project director), and Brian Kahin will
 participate to offer their perspectives, based on experience with the U.S.
 patent system.  Also in conjunction with the conference, Perens will release a
 white paper examining the issue of patents and computer industry standards,
 which can be found at
 Economists speaking in the Parliament include Luc Soete, Director, Maastricht
 Economic Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT), University
 of Maastricht, and Dietmar Harhoff, Director, Institute for Innovation
 Research, Technology Management and Entrepreneurship at the University of
 Munich.  Additional details about the conference can be found at
     OSRM's Patent Risk Mitigation Efforts
     As part of its mission of managing financial risks for users of Free and
 Open Source Software, OSRM works for reform of the current standards under
 which governments grant patents.  OSRM believes the problem of non-innovative
 patents extends far beyond the area of software and ultimately will need to be
 addressed through legislative changes.  As such, OSRM seeks to direct efforts
 toward horizontal reform of the patent system.
     In August, OSRM sponsored and released the results of the first-ever
 evaluation of potential patent infringement by the Linux kernel.  Patent
 attorney Dan Ravicher conducted the study and found that no court-validated
 software patent is infringed by the Linux kernel, but that 283 issued but not
 yet court-validated software patents, if upheld as valid by the courts, could
 potentially be used to support patent claims against the Linux kernel.
 Ravicher's position paper sparked widespread public discussion and has been
 downloaded from OSRM's web site by the public over 10,000 times.  The paper is
 available at  In
 response to the findings brought to light by this seminal patent study, OSRM
 has expanded its risk mitigation and insurance offerings to cover patent
     About Open Source Risk Management
     Supported by Free and Open Source Software leaders as well as experts in
 patents and copyrights law, Open Source Risk Management (OSRM) is the
 industry's only vendor-neutral provider of risk mitigation, indemnification,
 and management services for enterprise Free and Open Source Software users.
 OSRM helps organizations assess potential legal risks and design risk-
 mitigation solutions based on a set of best practice protocols.  Additionally,
 OSRM provides indemnification by underwriting copyright and patent coverage,
 through its affiliates, for the Linux kernel versions 2.4 and 2.6.  Through
 its FOSS Legal Defense Center, OSRM also works in tandem with highly
 specialized software rights lawyers to offer coordinated legal defense
 services.  For more information, please visit
      Contact:  Karen Duffin
                Bite Communications for OSRM
                t: 415-365-0459
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