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We’re against software patents

For years, Bristol Wireless has been opposed to software patents. Firstly, they stifle innovation and cripple competition. To date they haven’t been too much of a problem in the UK. However, one only has to look across the Atlantic to see the kind of mess that can occur due to software patents: companies making more money from patent litigation than they do from ordinary commercial activities and the emergence of so-called ‘patent trolls‘, all exacerbated by what appears to be the preparedness of the USPTO to grant patents to prior art, particularly where computer hardware and software are concerned.

Nevertheless, software patents now look more likely to become a reality within the European Union with plans to set up a unitary patent system. Earlier this week Bristol Wireless became a signatory to the resolution below against a European unitary patent.


Our company is worried about the current plans to set up a unitary patent with a flanking unified patent court.

The European Patent Office (EPO)’s practices to grant software patents, under the deceiving term of “computer-implemented inventions”, pose a threat to our professional activities.

We are concerned that the regulation on the unitary patent, as agreed in December 2011 by the negotiators of the Council, the Commission, and the Committee on Legal Affairs of the European Parliament, leaves any and every issue on the limits of patentability to the EPO’s case law, without any democratic control or review by an independent court.

The regulation on the unitary patent is an opportunity for the EU legislators to harmonise substantive patent law in the EU institutional and jurisdictional framework, and to put an end to the EPO’s self-motivated practices extending the realm of patentability to software. Failing to do so, this unitary patent will do more harm than good to the EU ICT firms.

For these reasons, we urge legislators to adopt amendments which clearly state that the EPO’s decisions are subject to a review from the Court of Justice of the European Union, and which reaffirm the rejection of software patentability, as expressed by the vote of the European Parliament on September 24th, 2003 and July 6th, 2005.

A soon as the European Parliament returns after the summer break, MEPs will debate a draft regulation about a
unitary patent and a draft international agreement setting up a unified patent court. However, this project amounts to rubber stamp the EPO’s practices of granting software patents, which would be enforceable before a court that is likely to follow EPO’s case law.

For more information on the unitary patent, see the dedicated website