Buy Fair Technology: No Mobiles from the Patent Bullies!
The largest European mobile phone and consumer electronics companies are using offensive patenting strategies and deploying significant money and manpower to into intransparent and deceptive lobbying (astroturfing) for extension of patentability by EU laws. In doing so, they have significantly undermined democracy and made the EU a worse place to live in. We call on you to avoid buying from these companies and try to list alternatives.
News & Chronology
2005-03-31 EU Volvo letter: Patent Loser Lobbying for Council Position
2004-12-23 DE "Buy Fair Technology" Campaign Start, Heise reports
2004-12-21 EU Simon Phipps (Sun Microsystems): Patents - Time for Wisdom (talks about the atmosphere in the mobile phone standardisation consortia and their desire to extend their form of cartel to the Internet)
2004-12-16 EU Mobile Phone industry locked down by patents: "The major players in the telecoms field have indulged in a degree of cross-licensing that makes it effectively impossible for new players to enter the market if they don't have their own portfolio of patents to throw into the pool."
2004-12-08 FI Lars Wirzenius: Personal life: No Nokia ("Before I joined Nokia I had formed an understanding that Nokia was using and would be using its patent portfolio defensively [..] the reality was quite horrible") (--> Nokia)
2004-11-25 Dutch Presidency Expects "Hard-Fought Deal" with Poland -- it is widely believed that the rigid behaviour of the Dutch government is due to a habitual obedience to Philips (and pressure, including threats to move R&D centers to China, slightly more blunt than pronounced in the 5 CEO letter of 2003-11-07)
2004-07-06 Siemens Boss chants Patent Slogans at Summit with Schröder -- Even before that, the Siemens Boss had used his direct access to the chancelor for opposing the European Parliament's amendments
2004-01-16 Swedish Justice Minister in Favor of Software Patents -- the Swedish government is, by habit, uncritically obedient to its national champion Ericsson
2003-00-00 FI Nokia IPR Director explains "Offensive IPR Strategy"
2003-11-07 EU letter of the five CEOs -- a collection of empty threats to European heads of state, translating to "hand us over the money and rights of your citizens or we'll have to close factories and move our R&D elsewhere", uttered against all common knowledge of economics and engineering. The EU Council's decision to ignore the European Parliament was fuelled by this letter.
2002-06-14 DE Siemens: Patente sind sexy -- Members of the board and leaders of the patent department speak proudly about the fruits of their work of building an efficient patent incentive and management system: >6000 patents per year, 60% in software, aggressive use especially in the USA, charging of licensing fees even within the Siemens group, so as to improve the incentive effect. Siemens no longer has the image of the "peaceful giant", litigation fees have soared by 100% in the last 10 years, patent department with 200 employees is one of the most profit-oriented "patent law companies". "We are especially looking for patents that can not be circumvented or are likely to become part of future standards".
2001 DE Dr. Horst Fischer, patent department head of Siemens since 1994, declares in an interview with Siemens Webzine that patents are "potent weapons" and that software patents will play an increasingly great role for the strategy of Siemens: "Software patents even account for an increasingly large share of our portfolio. Some groups, such as Automation & Drives and Medical Solutions, have launched special initiatives for such patents. Initial registration of these property rights is increasingly occurring in the U.S., because the legal framework for software patents is very advanced there. This trend is even more pronounced in the case of patents for "business models", in other words, patents for electronic business solutions. Here we've set up a worldwide coordination and counseling center.
Why Software Patents are Directed Against Consumers
Patents are broad monopoly rights that intrude much more deeply into people's freedom than copyright or trademarks. Whereas traditional patents were a weapon in a warfare between largescale industrial organisations with expensive science laboratories, with software patents, the normal office and living room computer is targetted. This strengthens monopolies in areas where they do no good at all, reduces R&D investments and artificially raises the prices.
Read http://www.nosoftwarepatents.com/ for an introduction on software patents.
What are the Patent Bullies?
At the Patents2Innovation website you can find an impressive list of hightech companies who allegedly are rallying behind the most primitive kind of propaganda. In many cases the companies listed there do not really stand behind the campaign and have just been listed because they are members of a member association of EICTA. To confirm their position, we need to contacted them one by one .
Mobile phone companies do not need software patents in order to be productive. Copyright and business secret are more than enough, also for embedded software. This has been testified by many of the big players in the industry, such as Oracle, Adobe, Cisco, Autodesk, Ilog. But some of the big companies have nourished huge patent departments which hoard thousands of broad and trivial patents on calculation rules and business models every year and crosslicense these among each other. For a new entrant, the patent royalties due for implementation of telephony standards in a telephone add up to more than the price of the phone, and many patents aren't licensable at all. Thus competition is effectively restricted.
In such companies, the patent departments usually employ 100s of people and engage in offensive patent strategies. This includes lobbying for software patents and other patent legislation that helps strengthen their oligopolistic power.
Economic Studies show that software patents have lead to a decrease on R&D spending and increase in litigation spending even among the patent bullies themselves.
Whom to Avoid
The Big European Patent Bullies: Nokia, Siemens, Ericsson, Alcatel, Philips. Each of these has a large patent departments with hundreds of staff, several among them involved full-time in lobbying for software patent legislation.
From Whom To Buy
European mobile phones: Sagem
- non-european mobile phones: Motorola, Samsung, Panasonic ...
To be investigated further.
- create project fairtech with mailing lists
- collect more materials on buying alternatives
- cooperate with more groups
- create nice web portal with campaign banners etc, leaflets etc
- research the patent portfolios of the patent bullies, possibly ask universities to provide some independent expertise based on our questions
- research which companies really stand behind the patent bullies' campaigns