By organizing this information and delivering it into the hands of activists and law makers, we can form an immense tool to help existing and future campaigns around the world — Ciaran O’Riordan, Director End Software Patents.

BOSTON, Massachusetts, USA — Monday, February 23rd, 2009 — The Free Software Foundation today announced funding for the End Software Patents project to document the case for ending software patents worldwide. This catalog of studies, economic arguments, and legal analyses will build on the recent success of the “in re Bilski” court ruling, in which End Software Patents (ESP) helped play a key role in narrowing the scope for patenting software ideas in the USA.

For this new phase of End Software Patents work, the FSF has engaged veteran anti-software-patent lobbyist Ciaran O’Riordan, taking over from Ben Klemens as director of ESP. O’Riordan brings years of experience campaigning against software patents in the EU. This knowledge, combined with what was learned during the Bilski work, will form the starting point for a global information resource and campaign. The goal is to make it easy for activists around the world to benefit from existing knowledge, often scattered and sometimes disappearing with time.

O’Riordan explained, “Each campaign raises new evidence and arguments for the case against software patents. The work on the Bilski case uncovered new economic studies and developed legal proposals for how to pin down the slippery goal of excluding software ideas from patentability. To make the most of that work, Phase II of ESP will work on documenting and organizing that information and making it easily reusable. We’ll add to that what was learned during the years-long campaign against the EU software patents directive, and then we’ll research and document what’s happening in South Africa, India, New Zealand, Brazil, and so forth.

In recent years, some of the largest technology companies have led a charge to register tens of thousands of software patents in an apparent attempt to stifle competition and threaten software users. To counter those efforts O’Riordan explained the work the campaign will undertake, “We have the arguments and the studies to show how software patents harm competition, choice, innovation, SMEs, standards, and entrepreneurs. We can show that by blocking individuals and communities from participating in software development, software patents impede a very important activity. We’ve seen how inefficient, slow, and costly the patent system is — how incompatible it is with software development timelines.

There’s a mountain of information, but a bottleneck is that much of it is contained in electronic archives — sometimes public, sometimes private — and in news stories, and unmaintained websites. By organizing this information and delivering it into the hands of activists and law makers, we can form an immense tool to help existing and future campaigns around the world.

While other online resources focus on exposing and fighting individual bad software patents, we will be continuing our broader approach of working to see the entire system reformed so that patent offices no longer grant patents for software ideas. Until that happens, there will always be new mosquitoes to swat, and software developers and users will continue to be intimidated by the possibility of legal actions.

The project website is located at To be informed about the details of this project in the coming days and weeks and to learn how you can participate, please sign up to the ESP mailing list at

Categories: Campaign