-> [ Volvo | Patent News ]

31 March 2005 -- The representative office of Volvo Motors in Brussels has sent a paper to members of the European Parliament, dated 15 March 2005, which calls them to support the Council's "Common Position". The letter reads like a copied and pasted from similar letters sent by other large Swedish companies, consisting mainly of unsubstantiated bold statements about the importance of patents and the "devastating effects" that any serious limitation of patentability would have.

The Volvo paper, published under the date of March 15 and distributed to members of the European Parliament, falsely claims that the Council position prevents the patenting of pure software whereas that of the Parliament causes damage to the whole industry. It then lists the usual patent lawyer fallacies.

In June 2003, Jean-Pierre Courniou, R&D director of Renault and president of the "Club Informatique des Grandes Entreprises Fran├žaises" (CIGREF = Computing Club of the Large French Companies) declared software patents to be a great danger for the automobile industry and summarised: "For me and for CIGREF, the response is: no, we don't want patentability". According to FFII's research, Volvo owns far fewer software patents than Renault and is definitely on the losing end of the software patent game in every respect.

Hartmut Pilch, president of FFII, comments: "It is clear that Volvo is merely being used by a network of corporate patent lawyers for political statements that have nothing to do with the interests of Volvo. MEPs should put hard questions to Volvo and insist on a talk with their board level. As long as there is no apology from Volvo's board, the rest of us should punish Volvo for allowing abuse of its name by a kind of political activism that is harmful to the industry and consumers at large. Please read Volvo's shameless patent claims and lobbying letters and remind them next time you think of buying or renting a car."

See also our documentation about Volvo and their software-related patenting activities.

The Volvo Text with Comments

The Volvo letter claims:

These investments are already sufficiently protected by

Patents put these investments at risk.

The FFII and its position are supported by many companies in the automotive programming field.

Software patents in this field are regularly as broad and trivial as in other fields.

Yes, and in all these fields, software patents lead to broad and trivial claims on non-trivial developments that are already sufficiently protected by the above-mentioned means.

Yes, and thereby they are putting the patent departments out of work in the same way that previously horse-carts were put out of work. The computer is a means of simplifying the process of invention. The process has changed, and patents are no longer useful for it. If you don't like that, continue inventing the old way !

The EPO practice has mostly produced broad and trivial patents in all these fields. That has served corporate patent lawyers very well, and some companies believe that this is in their interest.

As is well known and acknowledge by patent professionals, there is no significant difference, see e.g. EubsaTechEn, and the term "computer program as such", as deceptively used by the Council, excludes nothing that anyone in the USA or elsewhere ever wanted to patent.

There have been problems, and the fact that they have been smaller than in the US is largely due to the fact that we have a better law which the Council text tries to demolish and that of the Parliament of September 2003 tries to reaffirm.

Impact on the Volvo Group

This says nothing about the impact on Volvo.

Volvo Group's position

The European Patent Convention is already implemented into national laws, and the Council position undermines its principles.

This unsubstantiated statement sharply contradicts the state of empirical studies in economics so far.

Software innovations can't be copied without infringing copyright. Also, the cumulated protection mechanisms are sufficient, as explained above.

Volvo, please read up on the economic literature!

Software developers can still obtain patents in these countries and attack their competitors there, whereas they are safe from attack on their home market.

The talk about regional imbalances is completely arbitrary. There is no such imbalance in the patent system, no matter whether with or without a particular type of patent.

Hosting sponsored by Netgate and Init Seven AG