Some notes about my trip to a United Kingdom Patent Office workshop in Coventry on 15 March 2005. They call it "Computer Implemented Inventions Directive" but we (and the European Commission press spokesman) call it "Software Patents Directive" or "swpat". More background.

Arrival and Intro

Arrived 1330 - found room - issued badge - assigned to table - coffee - 22 people, split between 6 tables - apparently no attempt to mix backgrounds. Leaflets from UKPO [PDF] on a table near the door with the "any changes ... will seriously undermine" anti-negotiation message from Intellect. Nice way to annoy people before the start. Four people stood near that, arguing profusely. When questioned, promoting the Intellect position was described as "that's what industry are telling us".

About 1400, intro from Julyan with instructions. Named some other people. 550 responses. All invited to attend. 13 workshops in total. 6 parallel workshops in London. (I didn't catch Julyan's surname and there was no display to copy from. Probably Elbro, Deputy Director of their IP policy directorate - why does a Trading Fund have a policy directorate when funds are meant to interface through the minister, not write laws? See also HM Treasury glossary)


One hour was spent doing a worksheet, comparing five case studies against four definitions and marking them onto an answer grid with comments. Directed to assume that they are novel and inventive. There are 18 case studies, 5 given to each workshop. The ones we saw were numbers 1 traffic lights, 6 transport fleet management, 11 ASIC manufacture, 12 online game prediction, 13 mobile phone demand prediction. I'm reluctant to copy the pages stamped as Copyright The Patent Office without clear permission. I know they're reading this: UKPO, can I have permission and why don't you put contact details on the workbook?

4 definitions per workshop from ?? contributions. Answer grids marked up onto sheets on the wall, one mark per person #1 #2

Seemed to be 10 to 15 minutes lost after finishing. Slack scheduling? 20 minutes going around tables in turn and summarising opinions. Debate about the brokenness of current patent situation breaks out. Brought back to order to finish gathering opinion summaries. Quick hand-raise of which case studies we thought should be patentable (I grumble - we had 15 mins per definition for the other four, not a snap decision from memory/quick glance). Unsurprisingly, only a bit over 5 minutes left for general debate. Good points made there about the point of patenting and an obvious "patent the hardware that uses the software" solution - the idea is that if the hardware system alone is not worthy of a patent, simply connecting it to software should not make it patentable.

Workshop closed at 1600


The current situation wasn't really mentioned much, nor why "technical contribution" is worth defining. The choice of brochure to leave in this meeting, the closing down of wider debate, the way the exercise assumes that the directive is a done deal: it's all quite sad. This seems like a fairly marginal consultation and a huge missed opportunity. Once again, the outputs look like they'll be difficult for anyone other than the commercial UKPO to analyse.

I'm posting my notes and pictures in the hope that others will do the same. I believe definition 1 was the UKPO draft and definition 2 was FFII, but I could be wrong. More in the fsfe-uk list announcement.

Further information

If you want to ask questions about the worksheet or case studies used at this event, or if you have a page about these workshops, please email mjr at

Back to my AFFS files. This is my opinion, not an official AFFS view. This is on www.AFFS because it's information about the continued existence of free software in the UK, which I view as work for AFFS (see aims).

Revision 17, 2005-03-23 22:20 +0000

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