Hungarian Association of IT Companies (IVSZ) supports copyright, opposes software patents

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The Hungarian Association of IT companies (IVSZ) has made a public statement regarding software patents on 26 August 2004. As can be seen here, this association is a member of EICTA (the "European ICT Association", the majority of whose direct members are non-European companies), which until now always has spread pro-software patent messages.

Nevertheless, even its previous PR which welcomed the pro-software patents Council decision of 18 May (MS Word document) noted that Sun Microsystems had reservations regarding the EICTA standpoint and that the company did not want to support it. This position of IVSZ shows that also not all national associations which EICTA claims to represent support its stance on software patents.

The original Hungarian version can be found here.


Damocles' sword above the Hungarian IT industry

Although in theory it is illegal to patent software, algorithms and business methods, the European Patent Office (EPO) has already granted more than 30.000 such patents. The Hungarian Association of IT companies maintains that if patent rights are extended to software according to the vote in the EU Competitiveness Council, the whole Hungarian software industry will get in an impossible situation. It would result in the destruction of a promising and important sector for the country. The Hungarian small and medium IT enterprises would not be able to register their own patents, lacking capital, and when doing any kind of development they would have to take care of tens of thousands registered patents, thus impeding development.

The essence of a software patent is that the owner gets a temporary monopoly on an idea in return for the resources spent on its conception. The European software patent directive, which is currently being written in Brussels, was created to regulate this. This directive defines the scope of patentability for computer-implemented inventions, and makes the concerning rules clear. The European Parliament took serious steps to make a general ruleset, but in spite of their work the Council of the European Union now proposes a text which does not define the borders of patentability, so it does not help to clarify any rules.

IVSZ maintains that for defending the rights concerning software, copyright gives sufficient assurance. Patent right cannot pertain to software according to current Hungarian law. This is also the standpoint of all of EU member states and the EPO, but nevertheless the EPO has been granting thousands of software patents, and the planned directive is not clear on this point.

Hence IVSZ, as the representative of interest of the hungarian IT companies, asked the representatives of Hungarian Government to take a position in the negotiations and related procedures about the EU patent directive according to the association's member organisations' interests.

IVSZ also warns the Hungarian representatives working in the Council and the Parliament of the fact that because of the obscure wording of the directive, the whole promising Hungarian IT sector could be forced to a subsidiary role forever.

"Today the protection of software is guaranteed by copyright, according to the Berne convention. Copyright is a longstanding, effective principle, and does not bring with it the danger that patent sharks can wipe the floor with software developers" - said Bal√°zs Szekfu, president of IVSZ.

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