Legal costs associated with resolving software patent disputes will double if the European Union ratifies proposals to introduce US-style intellectual property laws, an industry group has warned.
According to Open Source Risk Management (OSRM), a vendor-neutral provider of free and open source software, risk mitigation and management services, an EU decision to introduce software patents could have disastrous consequences.
"A patent system that misidentifies true innovators and fails to allow sufficient review by outside parties is an expensive one," said Daniel Egger, OSRM founder and chairman.
"In the US the average cost of patent litigation is about $3m per lawsuit. Under such a system, those to whom a patent legitimately belongs must go to court to claim their benefits and protection, a costly and unfair tax on those who produce beneficial innovations."
The OSRM estimates that as much as 50 per cent of the cost of defending against software patents is due to patents that "never should have been granted in the first place".
OSRM announced the launch of its Patents and Prior Innovations Project, which invites developers in the open source community to help write a history of software, focused on tracing the technical history of patents.
The work will be done on the Grokline website with the intention of presenting the resulting report to the European Parliament.
"This project is being launched just as Europe considers whether to align its patent system closer to that of the US, a system that has a poor reputation within the software community," said Brian Kahin, visiting professor at the University of Michigan and a former senior policy analyst at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
"Assessing whether patent history actually reflects intellectual history is an important test of the value of the patent system as well as of individual patents.
"This project is the first systematic undertaking to examine and evaluate the patent threat over a larger area, in this case a major platform on which billions of dollars in investments are riding."
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