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The future of thousands of innovative IT companies is under threat. Even NewsNow may not be entirely immune.

A proposed amendment to EU patent legislation will get its first reading by the European Parliament on 1st Sept. While claiming to clarify patent legislation, it will in fact open the door for wholesale patenting of software in Europe.

Why should you be worried about this? Patents are designed to protect companies' and individuals' investment in innovation, right? Wrong. Software patents will favour large corporations with the financial and legal might to register and enforce their own patents and fight off competing claims for patents.

Experience in the US, where software has been patentable since the 80s, shows that software patents stifle innovation, rather than supporting it.

The courts there have been willing to enforce patents on algorithms which are simple, and fundamental to much software which is in wide use. For example, Microsoft was recently forced to pay out $520m to a company with a single employee which claimed a patent on the concept of browser plug-ins. Now other browser manufacturers may worry that they too are infringing this patent. But Microsoft can afford $520m; smaller companies would be unable to afford such sums, and might be put out of business. It's worth noting that the draft of the EU legislation originated with the US-based Business Software Alliance, which represents the interests mainly of large corporations.

More worryingly, experts say that EU legislation will enable the patenting of 'business methods'. Amazon has a patent on file at the EU patent office similar to one it was granted in the US, which relates to its 'one click' method of purchasing a product online. How innovative is such an idea, and how much investment did it take to come up with it?

One of the key things about software development, as opposed to other forms of scientific research and development, is that it doesn't require a significant investment in expensive equipment or licenses. Buy a PC, install Linux, and you can write software, and try to make money out of it. NewsNow itself started out in 1997 with one box-shifter PC running Linux.

This low startup cost makes for a highly competitive environment, where a large player can easily be challenged by a small startup. This competition is good for business: it creates opportunities for entrepreneurship; and it's good for consumers: it creates choice and drives down costs.

If software patents become widespread, however, such competition will cease. Large corporations will own patents which prevent others from competing with them (and as they exploit their monopolies for profit, they will be able to acquire more patents, reinforcing their monopoly).

Software patents are bad for business, bad for consumers, and bad for the Internet. Stop them now:

* Sign the Petition for a Software Patent Free Europe
* Sign up for the FFII Call For Action from the European Parliament and Council for Europe
* Write to Arlene McCarthy, key EU advocate of the proposed amendment:
Arlene McCarthy
Express Networks
1 George Leigh Street

Contact Details
Nick Gilbert

Chief Executive
+44 (0)20 7471 0400

NewsNow Press Office

+44 (0) 20 7471 0400

Background Information

NewsNow is an online news monitoring service based in West London.

NewsNow customers are PR, marketing, market intelligence, and research departments in medium to large size companies.

These companies use NewsNow to monitor news relevant to their company, their clients, competitors and internal needs. Results are delivered by email, to intranet/extranet, or password protected web site.

NewsNow is the one of only a few companies that is able to offer this kind of online monitoring. Its customers include IBM, Balfour Beatty, Direct Line and Oracle.

NewsNow key points

* Tracks over 10000 source web sites in 600 categories
* Has over 200 customers
* Monitors news in 90 countries and 18 languages
* Tracks most leading online broadsheets and tabloid newspapers
* Tracks leading underground or lesser-known online news sites
* Offers advance Boolean search and positional matching
* Monitors up to 500 keywords for each client with free monthly changes

NewsNow History

NewsNow was founded in 1997. It began as a news aggregation Web site ( that fast became the UKs leading news aggregation site and today attracts 7 million page impressions monthly.

In 1998 NewsNow began offering tailored feeds to customers on their web sites. This was soon extended into what is called NewsNow: media monitoring services - a fully featured search and monitoring service that also offers an email alert feature.

NewsNow Technical Background

NewsNow is a powerful online news search engine. Companies can track multiple words on sites across the world and have their results delivered to them by email, to their intranet/extranet, or to a password protected web interface, within fifteen minutes of their publication on the Internet.

29th August 2003, NewsNow Publishing Ltd, London England

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