ESR Pollmeier GmbH – Servo Drive Technology

Software Patents
2000 – 2005

IntroductionExamplesFiled Today, Patented Tomorrow?Statement

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Hint: You can search for patents yourself at DEPATISnet (DPMA).


European Software Patents: Assorted Examples

Quotation from the FFII page: "We came across the following impressive examples at first reading through our tabular listings of software patents. They were almost randomly chosen and thus approximately represent the technicity and inventivity standards of the European Patent Office. If anything distinguishes them from other patents it is the relative ease with which they can be understood at first sight by a fairly large public." You can verify the criticism of the FFII yourself: the original patents are presented.

Software Patents in Action

Quotation from the FFII page: "In recent years, more and more software patent litigation cases are becoming known through the media. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. Most software companies and software developers are being threatened informally outside of courts, and silence is an obligatory part of these out-of-court settlements. Many projects are cut back or don't get started because the field is cluttered with patents. It is difficult to document blocked paths of development. Here we will try our best."

Control system with an integrated web server

Transmission of data from a PLC into a spreadsheet

National Instruments (US) takes over GFS and Datalog (DE) after software patent litigation

The two German companies GFS and Datalog were taken over in 1998/99 by the US company National Instruments after a patent battle.

Quotation from Control Engineering: "National Instruments (NI, Austin, Tex.) acquired Datalog (Monchengladbach, Germany) in Sept. '98 and GFS (Aachen, Germany) in September '99. The German firms manufacture software products that NI felt were infringing on its LabView patents, and so, after considering numerous options, NI decided to buy both."

Question: about which patent numbers were they litigating at the time? The list of patents on the National Instruments website is very long. National Instruments has at least 5 more patent applications pending at the EPO, as can be seen from DEPATISnet.

PROFInet (Ethernet as Fieldbus)

The Profibus Nutzerorganisation (PNO) (PNO) provides its members with source code and documentation for implementing PROFInet (PROFInet Runtime Software). The license agreement for this software grants PNO members the right to use 5 patents (see section 1.5). We checked these patents and found the following patents and patent family members.

Fieldbus Patents (Warrior Patents)

The following patents are from Fisher-Rosemount (today's Emerson Process Management) and are being discussed in the circles of Foundation Fieldbus and HART. A part of the patents are also referred to by the inventor's name as "Warrior Patents". In specialist circles it was long believed that such patents would never be possible in Europe. Meanwhile however there are European and German patents and applications, as can be seen by patent family searches at DEPATISnet (DPMA).

Question: Do these patents really have a "technical character"? Quote (translated) from the German Patent Office: "A program-related invention has a technical character, if for solving the problem, which is at the heart of the invention, forces of nature or technical means (such as hydraulic forces, electrical currents or computer signals) are directly used."

Filed Today, Patented Tomorrow?

Ideas which are filed at the patent office today are usually meant to be patented. By looking at exemplary patent applications of a large German electronics corporation, which has been pushing for an extensive patenting practise for many years, you can recognize the direction where we are heading.

Statements and Demands

After a detailed analysis of the current patenting practise, of the EU Directive Proposal, of related literature and of numerous example patents and patent applications as well as extensive discussions with proponents and opponents of software patentability, we have worked out a position paper on software patents, which includes a series of demands.

Plea for a Clear Concept of Technical Inventions (PDF, 236 KB)

Transparencies (translated) for a lecture given at a meeting of the working group "Communication in Industrial Automation" of the German electrical and electronic manufacturers' association ZVEI on 2002-06-05.

Please note: The software and hardware names, company names, and brand names used in this text may be subject to trademark, registered trademark, or patent protection.

Please send any suggestions, comments and critical remarks about to Stefan Pollmeier.