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New European Anti-Patents Crusade On Tap

Florian Mueller, the German software developer who assumed a leadership position in the vanguard of the anti-software patents campaign in Europe last year, is gearing up to spearhead another drive. This time Mueller is likely to get more support from countries scattered throughout the 25-nation EU.

Mueller, who discusses the earlier campaign in a book published in English and German Tuesday, said in an interview that the recent e-mail patents battle involving Research in Motion's (RIM) losing struggle with a patent trolling company in the U.S. spilled over in Europe and is helping anti software patents advocates marshal their forces. The case has helped prompt widespread calls for patent reform in the U.S.

"The RIM case has opened the eyes of many people over here as well," he said. "Hundreds, if not thousands, of e-mail-related patents have also been granted by different patent offices in Europe, and the only thing that prevents the holders of those patents from successfully enforcing them is that the national courts in major countries such as the U.K. and Germany are very reluctant to uphold those types of software patents."

Mueller's book, "No Lobbyists As Such -- The War Over Software Patents In The European Union," describes how a ragtag group of programmers and developers fueled a campaign that eventually enlisted large companies and some major politicians in the campaign. Mueller maintains that copyright and trade secret protection are adequate safeguards for software IP protection.

In Mueller's eyes, the software patents bogeyman is Microsoft, which has been generating patents at the annual rate of more that 3,000. But Mueller also criticized large companies like IBM, too, which he says holds its software patents portfolio over small and medium-sized companies.

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