EU Commission proposes to criminalise European software industry

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Brussels, 12 May 2006. The Commission's recently relaunched "Enforcement Directive" (IPRED2, 2005/0127 (COD)) proposal aims to criminalise all intentional and commercial IP infringements in order to "combat organised crime" and to "protect national economies and governments". This however results in the Commission exceeding its competence and is criminalising many EU businesses with unjustified and ill-conceived measures.

A company may infringe on a patent if it thinks the patent would not stand up in court. This is common business practice, in particular in the software industry where most patents are granted on insufficient legal grounds. And while Commission is seeking to criminalise this practice, the US is reconsidering its "treble damages" policy in such cases precisely because of widespread abuse.

Jonas Maebe, FFII board member, comments: "Does the Commission really intend to criminalise Europe's entire software industry? Can it name even one computer program which does not infringe on a single patent granted by the European Patent Office? It seems they want to replace the Lisbon goals with an Alcatraz program."

"The EU-Commission proposed means which divert law enforcement resources and which are not well suited to combat organised crime" adds André Rebentisch, FFII WIPO representative. "Appropriate definitions for counterfeiting and copyright piracy are already available in other EU regulations, but here the Commission prefers rather vague terminology which puts our knowledge economy at risk."

Ante Wessels, FFII analyst, notes: "In only 10 of the EU's 25 member states patent infringement is a crime today. Does this lead to distortion in trade, does it give the countries in which it is not a crime a competitive advantage? Nobody has ever claimed such a thing. Therefore there is no legal ground for including patent infringement in this directive. There are 10 more IP rights for which this question has to be answered."

Pieter Hintjens, FFII President, concludes: "We're very concerned when we see IP enforcement being idolized like this, regardless of the consequences. There is a huge and vital debate about whether we need patents at all in the software industry. This law ignores that debate and seeks to enforce those patents, labeling businessmen as common criminals, terrorists, or mafiosi."

A full analysis of the text is also available.

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About the FFII -- http://www.ffii.org

The FFII is a not-for-profit association registered in twenty European countries, dedicated to the development of information goods for the public benefit, based on copyright, free competition, open standards. More than 850 members, 3,500 companies and 100,000 supporters have entrusted the FFII to act as their voice in public policy questions concerning exclusion rights (intellectual property) in data processing.

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