The French Secretary of State for Industry and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) have lately voiced opposition, respectively, to the abusive implementation of patents in Europe and to charging for the use of patented technologies in the development of Internet software standards.
Christian Pierret, France's Secretary of State for Industry, has affirmed the position of the French government against the extension of software patents to the European Commission. Pierret's statement was in reaction to a project on software patent guidelines submitted to the French advisory committee on interior markets on March 3rd.
Since the guidelines project does not clearly define the limits of and the need for patents, the government is concerned about possible abusive patenting of software, as well as of commercial or intellectual methods. An extension of software patenting has largely been rejected both in France and in Europe at large.
Judging that it is imperative to assess the effects of legal protection of software as it is practiced by the European Patent Office and the member states, the French government is against any project which would have a negative effect on innovation, on the interoperability of free software or on the different market players (editors, integrators, users), notably small and medium-sized businesses. For the government, the software patent guidelines project does not adequately consider the economic, scientific and cultural factors at stake in the software market, nor does it promote innovation.
In another area, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) decided at the end of February to produce royalty-free specifications for the current project to develop common protocols that promote smooth evolution of the Internet and ensure its interoperability. According to the W3C site, "The option which would have permitted W3C Members to charge for the use of patented technologies in W3C Recommendations (called 'reasonable and non-discriminatory terms', or RAND) has been removed, pending final resolution of the question of what role RAND technologies should play in Web standards."
The Patent Policy Working Group first published a working draft of patent policy in August 2001 and has since been deluged with e-mail messages with comments and suggestions regarding the document. The Group has also called upon members of the Open Source community for comments.
The final W3C Patent Policy is still under development, but the W3C's current operating procedure with respect to patents already contains a firm commitment to royalty-free standards.
For the press release on software patents (in French):