Oppose Software Patents

  25 (Goal: 1,000)

Petitioning: All software professionals, especially small & medium-sized software enterprises

Petitioner: Pranesh Prakash started on January 13, 2010

Software patents in India occupy a contentious and indeterminate legal space. While recent amendments to the Patent Act have sought to bring our law in conformity with WTO-mandated standards, these amendments have shied from pronouncing conclusively on the patentability of software. The result is an equivocation in the law which is being wrestled aggressively and effectively by large corporate interests, patent attorneys and the Patent Office in favour of granting software patents. Unheard, and so unrepresented in this powerful triad are the interests of millions of citizen-consumers and small and medium-sized software-based enterprises who are either presumed too ignorant to be credited with a view on the issue, or are presumed to be irrelevant to the determination of these issues.

There are many arguments against software patents. Software patents are not exclusive rights over particular code, but over the ideas underlying that code. Software code is already protected under copyright law; adding patents to copyrights can have disastrous consequences. Firstly, software code is simply mathematical algorithms in a particular language. Mathematical algorithms cannot be patented, just as laws of nature cannot be patented.

Secondly, there is the issue of patent gridlocks. There are so many patents covering the simplest of things that there is no way possible to navigate through them, or to even get licences for all of them. A simple online store would have more than 20 patents associated with it.[1] Worst of all, it is extremely difficult to tell in advance what existing (or pending) patents cover your ideas. Even with the best lawyers, a company like Microsoft could not avoid the case over the custom XML, in which the judge ordered that the company had to stop sales of MS Word 2003 and 2007. Even with the best patent databases, and the best patent attorneys searching through them to find relevant patents, it is just an impossible task. This is made especially impossible by the lack of good databases, and the fact that the applications are completely in legalese.

Software is generally made from hundreds, if not hundreds of thousands of lines of code. In each software program, hundreds of different ideas get embedded. If software is made patentable, all these ideas will become unusable. Small and medium enterprises suffer the worst, since just getting a single software patent (in jurisdictions where this is allowed) is a very expensive process, and thus they are at a disadvantage since they cannot engage in cross-licensing and similar activities.

Sign this petition against software patents today. Make your voice heard by the Patent Office.