The BSAs seven proposals
The BSAs initiatives take a different point of view, arguing that the solution is to give SMEs greater access to the patent system. The BSAs seven proposals would:
create an "SME Committee" to monitor SME participation in the process
give SMEs a discount on EPO (European Patent Office) and national patent office fees
systematically collect prior art data to improve the quality of software-related patents
track patent data, particularly patents owned by SMEs
establish a "quality control" team to oversee the patent process
speed up the patent opposition process, a way of resolving patent disputes without recourse to litigation, and
reduce or eliminate fee diversion, which allows member states to divert patent fees for non-patent purposes.
The companys call for an administrative process for resolving patent disputes specifically made a reference to Europes opposition process. "Such a procedure already exists in the European system and could help weed out questionable patents before they become the subject of costly and time-consuming litigation," Microsofts Smith said, according to a prepared text of his speech. Critics say such attempts to reform and harmonize international patents ignore the fact that some international differences are positive. For example, software patents are not currently enforceable in Europe, and prominent figures such as Linus Torvalds argue such patents would cripple open-source development if legalized. Read more here about how the EUs proposed law on software-related patents could harm open-source developers. Instead of giving SMEs greater access to patents, reformers should be working to keep patents out of the software industry altogether, said anti-patent organizer Florian Mueller. "Even a patent system thats reformed along the lines of the BSAs suggestions would still be negative for innovation and competitiveness in the software industry," he said in an e-mail interview. The reforms would make little difference to SMEs, he said. Even if the EPOs fees were waived altogether, they amount to only about 10 percent of the cost of a European patent, he said: "Even if that 10 percent were waived completely, it wouldnt amount to much." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis in programming environments and developer tools.
Microsoft is also calling for an end to fee diversion in the United States.