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Bangalore protests Software Patents
By Suneetha.B

Copyrights? Yes! Patents? No! The Free Software Users Group in India emphatically protested against a back door attempt to create patents out of what is considered at par with an art form in the field of IT, viz. software. They held a candle light vigil attended by more than a 100 people in Bangalore, on the 23rd August 2008 in front of the Town Hall in India’s Silicon City.

The Bangalore Consultation on the Draft Patent Manual being prepared by the India Patent Office is on the 27the of this month, and the public vigil was conducted with this in view.

Anivar Aravind, one of the warriors for the cause, spoke to Techgoss and he says this has not been the first attempt to introduce a patent on software in India. The Indian Parliament had rejected the Bill outright in 2005. Later, vested interests had tried a Presidential Ordinance which again did not work out. Now, it is the Patent Office in India which is endeavoring to push the cause for patents. The draft Manual of Patent Practice and Procedure shows the first indications of this rather hidden agenda; where ‘software in association with hardware’ and ‘software per se’ are talked about. Software patents are not allowable in isolation, says the Patents Law in India, and the new draft tries to get round this impediment by combining software with hardware, in a clever move. As if software can independently exist without hardware!

Dr.V.Sasikumar, another free software soldier says in his blog that ‘it is virtually impossible to be even aware of all patented ideas. This is because so many patents have already been granted in the only country that supports software patents - namely, the United States of America - hat it is practically impossible to keep track of all of them. And they continue to issue patents on the order of thousands every year. Keeping track of all of them, especially in view of the vagueness in their wording, is just impossible.’

Former Judge of the Supreme Court of India, Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer, has commented that “neither the controller nor the central government has authority or sanction of law to publish a manual of the kind put on the website”.

Others who spoke emphasized on the fact that free software is a form of knowledge and software patents would amount to making knowledge a private property and would be injurious to the pace at which software is growing. Software patents destroy innovation and competition and turn software publishing into the right of a few. As software today pervades all walks of life, any dent in the pace of its growth would have a cascading effect on the economy in general.

So this ‘nasty new animal’ called a software patent refuses to go away, but it’s a relief to know that there are enough watchful eyes around to prevent it entering the sanctum sanctorum of knowledge and making it a purely private residence.

Techgoss note:  More photos can be seen in Techgoss Photos/Videos.

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