September 22, 2003

Linus: Open Letter on Software Patents from Linux developers

- by Linus Torvalds and Alan Cox -
Subject: Open Letter on Software Patents from Linux developers
Date: Sun, 21 Sep 2003 13:31:12 -0700 (PDT)
From: Linus Torvalds

Open Letter to
the Honourable Pat Cox, the President of the European Parliament,
members of the European Parliament:

Dear Mr. Cox,

We have been following with growing concern that Europe has been
extending patentability to computer programs. Now European Parliament
is about to vote on a directive that could put a stop to this
development, or make it worse, depending on how it is amended by the
Parliament.

US experience shows that, unlike traditional patents, software patents
do not encourage innovation and R&D, quite the contrary. In particular
they hurt small and medium-sized enterprises and generally newcomers
in the market. They will just weaken the market and increase spending
on patents and litigation, at the expense of technological innovation
and research.

Especially dangerous are attempts to abuse the patent system by
preventing interoperability as a means of avoiding competition with
technological ability. Standards should never be patentable! Likewise,
patents should never be used as means for preventing publication of
information - the whole idea of patents is to provide time-limited
monopoly in exchange for publication of the invention.

Software patents are also the utmost threat to the development of
Linux and other free software products, as we are forced to see every
day while we work with the Linux development. We want to be able to
provide the world with free high class, high quality, highly
innovative software products that really empower the users and offer
the best and only real chance to narrow the digital divide. Please do
not make this harder to us that it already is! In conclusion, we would
recommend You to vote for such amendments that

  • clarify limits of patentability so that computer programs,
    algorithms and business methods really cannot be patented as such;
  • make sure that patents cannot be abused to avoid technical
    competition by preventing interoperability of competing products; and
  • ensure that patents cannot be used to prevent publication of
    information.

To that end we would suggest following FFII's voting recommendations
on this directive (see www.ffii.org).

Sincerely,

Linus Torvalds, Alan Cox

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