The Kayak / 01.01 : Spain votes for open standards

Welcome to the first issue of The Kayak, the new FFII newsletter. Please visit the subscription page or scroll to the bottom of this text for more information.

The Kayak Team


  • Spain votes for open standards
  • The European Patent Conference and visions for the future
  • Stop the Criminal Measures IP directive
  • Kayak Award for best campaign against Microsoft OOXML
  • Latest attempt to legalise software patents: EPLA
  • Developers wanted for Gauss patent database
  • European Parliament firmly supports open standards
  • Esoma - representing IT firms in Europe
  • Intellectual Property on a global level
  • Software patent of the month: "Playback of digital images"

Spain votes for open standards

On 14 June, the Congress of Spain adopted a new law (LAECSP) to ensure open electronic access to public government services - by 2009 for central ones. In particular, the law requires that every interaction between the public and the government must be possible through the use of open standards (e.g. for documents, streaming video, downloads, and uploads).

In some cases, proprietary formats like Microsoft's OOXML could be an option, but only where public, royalty-free technology is not available. Many associations, with FFII and Hispalinux in the lead, helped the Spanish Congress to understand the need for and benefit of open standards in e-government.

Contact: Alberto Barrionuevo


The European Patent Conference and visions for the future

In August last year, several large IT firms asked the FFII to help organise a conference in Brussels to create a new dialog on patents. Seeing a major push in 2006 by Microsoft, SAP, Siemens, the European Patent Office (EPO), and the European Commission to settle the software patents question via the back door, we wanted to bring the debate into the open and keep it healthy.

If the official political channels - such as consultations and task forces - are tightly controlled by the patent industry, we have to create our own. Thus was born the European Patent Conference (EUPACO). We don't try to control EUPACO, any more than we try to control anything in the FFII; we trust the wisdom of the masses to understand, discuss,
and solve real problems. In fact one could say we're doing the Commission's work for them. Data + dialog = understanding.

After the successful two-day EUPACO-2 event in May, with 35 speakers and 110 participants, there will be a number of smaller workshop-style events this year and early next year, in Brussels and around Europe. Then, another big conference in 2008.

Of course we also have to take the debate global. We need an International Patent Conference, IPACO, and we'll be hoping to launch this when the time is right. Thanks to everyone who helped with EUPACO-2!

See also the EUPACO-2 report.

Contact: Pieter Hintjens, FFII President, EUPACO founder

Stop the Criminal Measures IP directive

The Criminal Measures IP directive (formally: IPRED2) was approved in a first reading in the European Parliament on 25 April. As written, it threatens to criminalise consumers and incriminate Internet Service Providers.

BEUC, EBLIDA, EFF and FFII made a coalition report on the problems with the proposal as amended in Strasbourg, for distribution to governments in the EU member states. Aside from competence, subsidiarity, effectiveness and proportionality issues, the European Parliament consolidated text does not represent the plenary vote - an amendment on parallel importation is missing. The FFII notified parliamentarians and officials, to find out it was done for "reasons of legal coherence". While legal coherence is important, it can not legitimise leaving an amendment out, or "counterfeiting the directive on counterfeiting".

We hope the coalition report will be sent to all member states' ministers of justice and all parliaments' justice committees. If we succeed, IPRED2 may be stopped in the European Council.

Note that parliaments will go into recess soon - please do not wait if you want to help; see background and contact information below.


Kayak Award for best campaign against Microsoft OOXML

On 20 June, the FFII has launched a global petition in order to trigger actions in all the countries' members of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in order to prevent the Microsoft Office proprietary file formats to become recognised standards. One week after, the petition has already collected 11.000 signatures.

The FFII has also setup a prize of 2,500 Euros for the individual or the team that manages to convince its country to vote NO to the ISO ballot.

Microsoft is currently trying to make the ISO National Bodies believe that its Office Open XML (OOXML) format is a good standard. Microsoft is invading the technical subcommittees in most countries with their "Business partners" companies, in order to create a fake impression of a consensus on their standard proposal. Several people reported that this
is the case in Denmark, Italy, and Portugal. Microsoft agents are also sending copy-paste letters to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

A decision by each National Standardisation Body in each country will be made somewhere during the holidays of July or August.

Deadlines for comments in some countries:

  • Ireland: 11 July 2007
  • Germany: 20 July 2007
  • Netherlands: 09 July 2007
  • UK: 30 June 2007
  • Denmark: 2 July 2007, meeting on the 11 July 2007
  • France: around the 15 July 2007
  • Spain: 11 July 2007
  • US: 13 July 2007
  • Canada: 05 July 2007


Latest attempt to legalise software patents: EPLA

Some forces - especially Microsoft, Philips, and Siemens, are still pushing for software patents, this time through a proposal called the European Patent Litigation Agreement (EPLA). It would setup a centralised system of courts that would let the patent industry set the agenda and enforce case law from the European Patent Office (EPO) as EU-wide patent law. It's the worst of all scenarios, and has been thoroughly debunked: the US model (CAFC) was a disaster, and every argument in favour of EPLA is based on incomplete data. It's meant to reduce costs but would actually raise them, FFII calculates.

Commissioner McCreevy has been a long-time supporter of Microsoft's ambitions, and called recently for another push to get EPLA endorsed by the EU Council, where it's languishing. For some reason, countries with strong small and medium enterprise (SME) sectors don't seem like this proposal.

More reading on EPLA is available on Digital Majority, such as this article.

Developers wanted for Gauss patent database

Gauss is a project to analyse, search and present publications from the European Patent Office. Developers are needed to improve various parts, for instance:

  • PatScore: parses new patents based on keyword-sets, assigns scores and updates the database.
  • PatCache: downloads XML-formatted patents on demand from the EPO server.

The capabilities of PatScore's built-in search agent needs to be improved, as well as its interface in general. PatCache needs better integration with the presentation layer in the front-end (currently Gauss uses a moinmoin wiki, though some parts may use Tomcat / Java at a later point). Primarily Python is used in the back-ends.

A public job tender will be available soon, with details on tasks and payment. Does this sound interesting? Please write to Jonas Bosson for more information.

European Parliament firmly supports open standards

On 24 May, the European Parliament adopted in Strasbourg an initiative report led by polish MEP Adam Gierek: "Putting knowledge into practice: a broad-based innovation strategy for Europe". The report deals with many subjects, such as standards, patents, public procurement or access to knowledge.

Very importantly, Parliament adopted as-is the definition of "open standard" previously agreed by the Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) committee, despite lobbying from some patent attorneys of large firms; a few days before the vote, they attempted to get this definition amended in order to weaken it, and to remove the royalty-free requirement. The approved text reads:

50. Recalls the definition of open standards adopted by the Commission pursuant to which (i) the standard is adopted and will be maintained by a not-for-profit organisation, and its ongoing development occurs on the basis of an open decision-making procedure available to all interested parties; (ii) the standard has been published and the standard specification document is available either freely or at a nominal charge; (iii) the intellectual property - i.e. patents possibly present - of (parts of) the standard is made irrevocably available on a royalty-free basis;

The Parliament also mentioned the importance to have one and only one
standard at the international level:

49. Takes the view that fragmentation of standards on a worldwide scale is not desirable; recommends that the Commission, the Member States and the various European and international standard setting bodies consider an "international-comes-first" approach whenever possible in setting new standards;

This question of "international-comes-first" is at the core issue of the ODF vs. OOXML drama, see also the OOXML article above.


Esoma - representing IT firms in Europe

The European Software Market Association is "the voice of the independent IT firms, professionals, and consumers", something that has been missing previously in Europe. It is also a non-profit organisation with similar goals as those of the FFII. In May an affiliation agreement was signed, allowing for a close relationship between specialised research from the FFII on one hand, and the voice of IT firms through Esoma on the other.

More information:

Contact: Alexandra Combes

Intellectual Property on a global level

Our WIPO workgroup keeps an eye on the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), to promote a slim and efficient organisation, more democratic governance, and to ensure that international rules match what national parliaments decide.

Today, the hot topic is the WIPO broadcast treaty. If enforced, broadcasters - not owners - control who can redistribute content. Thus a TV station that broadcasts public or free content can stop it from being redistributed. There is even talk of extending this model to the Internet; the broadcast treaty creates real confusion around who owns what.

In many other respects, WIPO is stalled and needs reforming. It has become a large, clumsy organisation, and disagreements over patent law have driven the US, EU, and Japan to start their own talks outside WIPO. If the Substantive Patent Law Treaty (SPLT) process remains frozen, WIPO is unable to move forward and the European Patent Convention (EPC) becomes the gravity center for international unilateral harmonisation efforts. The more non-EU countries who join the EPC, the harder it becomes for the EU to regain control over its own innovation policies.

Contact: Andre Rebentisch


Software patent of the month: "Playback of digital images"

Microsoft wants to patent slideshows, or "Playback of digital images". Claim 1 in their patent application reads:

A method of displaying digital images comprising the steps of:

  • receiving a display length indicator;
  • accessing digital images;
  • selecting a set of digital images from the accessed digital images in accordance with the display length indicator and predefined selection criteria; and
  • displaying the selected set of digital images in a predetermined order."

The application is currently pending with publication number EP1793577, you can look it up on the EPO Publication Server.

Upcoming events

All members are welcome to visit FFII board meetings

See also: for more information about The European Patent Conference.

Join us!

The FFII is a non-profit organisation working to establish a free market in information technology, by saying no to monopolies (software patents) and promoting better communication (open standards). Your support is very valuable, be it through time or money. See the FFII website for more information.


Our current projects range from research and lobbying, to campaigns and media work as well as some larger initiatives such as EUPACO. Most groups are open to any FFII member, and you are encouraged to take part in them. There are also many other mailing lists, see the action page (If you cannot find the relevant contact information, please contact us - see below.)

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The Kayak is edited by David Vuorio and the Communications Workgroup

Thanks to everyone who has sent submissions or helped with the editing of the first release: Alberto Barrionuevo, Alexandra Combes, Andre Rebentisch, Ante Wessels, Benjamin Henrion, Jonas Bosson and Pieter Hintjens.

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