2004-07-30 Motion in Munich: EU Software Patent Plans Jeopardise Linux Migration

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Munich, 07/30/2004 - When the city administration of Munich decided to migrate its IT infrastructure to the Linux operating system, it made headline news around the world. That project is now threatened by software patents. In May the EU Council and Commission have reached "political agreement" to legalise software patents and reject all limits of patentability for which the European Parliament had voted in September 2003.

Software patents are considered the greatest danger to the usage and development of Linux and other Free Software. A cursory search by FFII revealed that the Linux "base client", which the city of Munich plans to install on the desktop computers of approximately 14,000 employees, is in conflict with more than 50 European software patents.

Today Jens Muehlhaus, an alderman from the Green Party, filed two motions in which he calls on the mayor of Munich, the Social Democrat Christian Ude, to contact the federal government of Germany on this matter and to analyse how the EU software patent directive affects Munich's Linux project. The politician, a supporter of free source, warns that patent infringement assertions could take entire departments of the city administration out of operation. He attached the preliminary result of an FFII patent search (contains link to the actual PDF patents which are considered infringed) to his motions. Mr. Muehlhaus expresses concern over the future ability of free source software to meet the needs of the city administration if software patents massively hinder its development. Related caveats have been voiced by the SME association CEA-PME and by Deutsche Bank Research.

A week earlier, the chief information officer of Munich, Wilhelm Hoegner, said it is "indispensable" to check on the consequences of the software patent directive to free source software. Any such oversight would be a "catastrophe for Munich's Linux migration project, and for open source in general".

Florian Mueller, an active participant in the software patent debate, sees the EU Council on the wrong track: "Open source is a historic opportunity for Europe to save costs and create jobs. Schroeder, Blair and Chirac should demonstrate leadership and stop their civil servants from sacrificing the open source opportunity to the insatiable patent bureaucracy, lest some large corporations will shut down open source and many SMEs." Mr. Mueller is a software entrepreneur, and an adviser to MySQL, one of Europe's largest free source software companies.

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