UK Lobbyists Claim UK Software Industry In Trouble Because It Doesn't Have Software Patents

from the say-what-now? dept

techflaws.org points us to the news that the SME Innovation Alliance, a lobbying group that supposedly represents small tech firms, is complaining that the UK needs software patents, and saying that its software industry is suffering without them. That strikes me as pretty funny, because just recently I've been hearing from a bunch of fairly innovative UK-based startups, who seem to be doing just fine.
"We need to recognise that software is a material — you can make inventions from that material," [John] Mitchell [chairman of the SME Innovation Alliance], said at the event, held to discuss the recent Hargreaves report into intellectual property law. "It's like wood, it's like paper, so why have some artificial limitation?"
Um, because a patent is the artificial limitation -- it's the artificial limitation on everyone else. Furthermore, software is nothing like wood or paper, and it's downright scary that someone who runs a group called the "Innovation Alliance" thinks that one is like the other. Finally, software is already protected by intellectual property law, it's just that it's copyright. Why would he pretend that's not the case?
"If you don't have a patent system to protect your software industry, you're not going to have a software industry. How much more evidence do you need?" he asked.
Um, a lot, because the UK does have a software industry. Apparently Mitchell just doesn't know where to look. Furthermore, plenty of countries that don't recognize software patents have a software industry. Why would he argue otherwise? Either way, I would think this seems like good evidence for why innovative companies should not want to be a part of the SME Innovation Alliance, as the organization's views seem woefully out of touch on actual innovation.
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Filed Under: patents, software, software industry, software patents, uk


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  1. icon
    Tor (profile), 23 Jun 2011 @ 2:19am

    Quote from SMEIA's analysis of the Hargreaves review of IP:
    "The Review should have correctly addressed the failing at the UKIPO to modernise and get up to date, a failing that stifles UK growth. Instead it suggests in 2.18 that there is a requirement for ‘firm economic evidence’ before any further changes to the unusual UKIPO policy on software is made. An economic effect is not a requirement for a patent application to be considered. Nevertheless, and most ironically, the Prime Minister promoted the need for the Review by referring to economic evidence of US software industry success which he said cannot occur in the UK because of differences in our IP laws. In fact, the main difference is with the US and UK patent systems which rewards US companies in the US but the UKIPO does not reward any UK software industry for its inventions. As a result, the US is the source of most large software organisations who the UK has to turn to and spend large sums of monies on as there is no real alternative. Britain meantime no longer has any major software industry players which is firm evidence that the UKIPO policy is highly damaging to Britain’s software businesses."

    I often liken the software patent situation to the cold war since it's a kind of terror balance where the big parties are stuck, the small parties suffer and the only real winners are the arms dealers (law firms in this case). What SMEIA is saying is essentially that the only way for the UK to get better off is by joining and intensifying the arms race.

    Btw. for an organization founded in september 2009 I think one would expect to see more than 3 posts on their member forum. I find it very hard to believe that small tech firms would support this (unless they have been seriously misled).

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