Why I think we won the battle against software patents

After many years talking about the damages to innovation created by patents on software, I believe that the we can consider the battle won: the free software/open source movement should focus its attention on other battles.  While I agree with Florian Mueller that the Europeans are still pestered by patents on software, I believe that our campaign was to mainly raise wider awareness.

During the long march to reject the directive on ‘computer implemented inventions’ we put the issue of software patents in front of millions of Europeans, thousands of small businesses and hundreds of MEPs. We convinced the majority of  MEPs to reject, for the first time ever, a Directive approved by the Council. We started a debate about the threats to innovation posed by patents and we made sure the business community knew about the risks to their activity. The issues of patents on software and math are now visible to all those affected in the business community: entrepreneurs, small-and medium-size businesses and big business.

The business community at large is the ultimate victim of software patents. With trolls constantly at work, all companies face potential damage. Companies, small and big, are now aware of the problem and the debate about how to fix it is now a fire that burns on its own. Academics publish a lot more papers and research projects demonstrating that the current patent system is broken and dysfunctional and may be harming economic development of the US.

Looking at it strictly from the perspective of the free software movement: we won! We did our job, software patents are now a mainstream issue, our arguments are being pushed forward by people with vast resources, much more than the FSF or OSI can put together. I believe that Google, HTC, Apple, Microsoft etc. are the main victims of this stupid system. Some argue that the whole US and European commercial power is being harmed in the competition with China. Let them finish the fight: they have all reasons to want to change the system.  We as the free software movement can continue provide expertise when needed, follow the progress of the issue.

We need to liberate resources and energy for other fights that are still not mainstream: online privacy, DRM and locked devices are some that come to mind.

I believe that the victory in the European Parliament was and still is a full clear victory.  As Jack Welch teaches: celebrating a victory is always a good thing, even a small one.