Below is the email I sent in response to Community Patent Consultation organized by the FFII.
Dear All Concerned,
As a small businessman who started out as an entrepreneur out of university I currently employ 5 people. We serve reputable customers in Germany, providing them customized WLAN/802.11/Wireless network solutions.
We started our business with EUR 25,000 of capital from personal savings and family contributions. We never received any funding from an external investor and never a loan from a bank.
We did about 2 million EUR of revenue over the past 4 years of activity. And as a business owner I have never been as motivated about the future as I am today!
ALL THIS HAS BEEN POSSIBLE BECAUSE OF FREE SOFTWARE.
Starting out from zero, we were able to rely on the abundance of useful free software contributed by thousands of programmers worldwide. We stood on their giant shoulders and shaped their creations to suit the needs of our target customer group. When possible we gave back to free software groups and individuals in form of knowledge value-addition or at times just money.
We fear patent-regulation in Europe, because
- We will not be able to innovate freely, living under the mighty cannons of resources of large corporates that could, at will, send a lawyer knocking our door - to us that would be equivalent to hell breaking loose.
We may not have infringed any patent, and be on the moral and ethical right, but if we cannot hire a qualified lawyer who can defend our case, we won't be given the legal right. Depending on the severity imposed, we may have to pay a sum of money, or cancel certain projects, or even let some/all of our people home and scrape for last resources so we can pay legal bills. And honestly, I prefer to hire another engineer than a lawyer.
We indeed write 10's of thousands of code every year. We couldn't do it well if we had to do it under constant fear of a major corporate suing us.
- Secondly I believe the software industry has progressed so rapidly because of the open nature of this industry. All solid technologies like UNIX, JAVA, the WWW, Ethernet and scores of others are open-technologies/standards.
The benefactors of such openness have been
1) small businesses like us who could add value at a low entry-cost
2) consumers, who know they are in safe hands given the fact that there are no secrets; and that they will get a better price given that no single party controls/restricts access to this technology. Again, I point to the above few examples.
- Thirdly, large enterprises like Microsoft would love to control small businesses like us by forcing us to build solutions based on their proprietary technology. This way MS benefits economically, but also gains massively by having control on thousands of small businesses like us, and through us our customers.
In this aspect, Open-software has been a savior, for us and for our customers.
We request you SAY NO TO SOFTWARE PATENTS. As a small business, we promise you that we can innovate better and add more value for our customers without them.