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[Fsfe-uk] Sent to Malcolm Harbour MEP

From: ian
Subject: [Fsfe-uk] Sent to Malcolm Harbour MEP
Date: 21 Jun 2003 14:53:18 +0100

For info, this provides a clear test case of the can of worms software
patents could ensure for the public sector and poor value for the tax
payer. Feel free to use and adapt as necessary.


You might recall that I wrote to you concerning Microsoft Schools
Agreement a while back.

I am also concerned about the current EU debate and possible rulings on
software patents. I am currently giving evidence to the Treasury
Solicitor in the case of a challenge to a patent of Frontline Technology
on schools attendance registers. Frontline Tech is a front for BromCom
PLC who have ripped millions of pounds out of schools on the strength of
a bogus patent. Their tactics were to threaten legal action against any
school, LEA, or SME that installed a standard wireless network in a
school and used it to transfer *any* administrative data. Clearly a
nonsense but it shows how dangerous ephemeral patents of things like
software can be. A court case to challenge this patent would cost about
£250,000 and even LEAs would not take the risk. FLT sued a small company
(TASC) based in Wolverhampton for patent infringement and fortunately
TASC were insured and counter-sued. I believe FLT paid £400,000 in an
out of court settlement in order to prevent the patent being over-turned
in court - reason being they were then still at liberty to bully schools
and other SMEs with relative impunity. The DfES have now stepped in but
after literally millions of tax payers money has been needlessly
squandered. To give you an idea of the economics, I applied successfully
for a DTi Smart Award of £10,000 and developed an application that
provides more or less the same functionality as the FLT product that
they charge a single site a license fee of £15k for. We have the
ludicrous situation where public bodies are spending more on one license
fee than the entire development cost of the product. Expect this to get
a lot, lot worst with software patents. Also expect complaints to the
OFT about software monopolies to swamp its resources before too long.

www.dialsolutions.com/register to see the web based register software I
had developed and offered to the DfES entirely free for all its schools.
They setup a £11.25 million pound pilot in a few schools which
effectively just shovelled that tax payers money straight to the holder
of a bogus patent. I believe this will make a good story for a TV
documentary on how to aid and abet the squandering of public funding.

ian <address@hidden>

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