British Computer Society Recommends Pro-Patent Campaigners

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28 January 2005 -- In a recent bulletin, the British Computer Society endorses the UK Patent Office line on software patents and recommends pro-patent campaign groups and sites.

The bulletin, titled "Views Sought", at first glance appears to be a consultation call, but it gives its conclusions in advance and recommends only websites that represent one side of the argument.

It reads as follows:


Hartmut Pilch comments:

In 1998 former BCS president Ron McQuaker strongly criticised the pro-software-patent policy of the UK Patent Office (UKPO), which it was then pushing onto Europe through the European Commission. At that conference the UKPO was explicitely rallying for patentability of software as such. Since then the contents have stayed the same, only the packaging has changed. The UKPO and allies such as Intellect and EICTA are trying to disguise their own agenda and to frame the discussion in terminology that makes it impossible to reach understanding. These efforts seem to have fooled the British Computer Society to such an extent that BCS now appears to have bought into the pro-patent propaganda.

The current BCS call sorely confirms what BCS immediate past president Ron McQuaker said at a meeting in the UKPO in 1998:

BCS should at least help raise awareness among its own members, rather than forward these members to lobby groups which represent very special interests and do not have a record of entertaining informed discussions on the subject.

Background: Headaches of Other National Computer Societies

Pilch explains further:

In Germany the Society for Informatics has for years been abused by a few people who pushed the patent lobby agenda, while polls among the members showed that 2/3 were against this agenda. Recently the board was reelected to better reflect the member interests, and it was decided that currently the Society does not have a position on software patents.

Other European societies of computer professionals (e.g. in France, Spain, Slovakia, Slovenia) are known to be strong critics of software patentability, taking viewpoints similar to those which Ron McQuaker defended in 1998. In 2003 moreover 30 of the most famous computer scientists (some of whose books most BCS members are bound to have on their bookshelf) signed a strongly worded petition against software patentability and against the line taken by the European Commission, the UKPO, EICTA and Intellect. It would have been appropriate for BCS to at least point to these positions. We hope their failure to do so was due to negligence and will be compensated in the near future.

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