- Unitary Patent – the EU should take more time to get it right Dec 07, 2012
6th December 2012 - The European Union is on the point of overcoming nearly 40 years of procrastination over the creation of a single, or unitary European patent and the Unified Patent Court. The goal is to make it cheaper and easier for innovators to protect their inventions, thereby stimulating growth and dynamism in the European economy.
Openforum Europe (OFE) wholeheartedly supports this goal but it is alarmed at the lack of open debate in the final stages of the lawmaking process with the users, and especially following the latest compromise over the legal framework for the creation of a Unitary Patent and a Unified Patent Court reached between the Council and European Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee last month.
After decades of impasse it now appears that lawmakers are trying to rush through a poor compromise in the last minute that may make matters worse, not better, for innovators in Europe, especially for those in the technology industry.
- Is FRAND Dying? Nov 08, 2012
ComputerWorldUK - Glyn Moody - Last week's big announcement by the UK government was principally about procurement, detailing the new rules that will apply when government departments acquire software. Naturally, then, it concentrated on the details of that approach, and how it would be deployed and enforced. A key part of that was using open standards to create a level playing field for all companies, regardless of whether they offered open source or proprietary code.
As I explained in my post last week, the critical issue then became what exactly "open standards" meant, and, specifically, how standards that might be encumbered by patents would be dealt with. As I've noted many times before, the only way open source can implement general interoperability standards is if any claimed patents are licensed under royalty/restriction-free (RF) terms. Although that's the preferred mode for key Internet organisations like the W3C, it stands in contrast to the older approach, which was based on "fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory" - FRAND.
The problem is that licensing can be perfectly fair, reasonable and non-discriminating, but nonetheless incompatible with open source code. Typically, FRAND requires a per-copy payment, but for free software, which can be shared any number of times, it's simply not possible to keep tabs on just how many copies are out there.
- UK Government Back on Track with Open Standards Nov 01, 2012
Today the UK Government has announced its Open Standards Principles - the outcome of its public consultation on Open Standards, and in doing so has clearly reinforced its determination to drive through the use of such standards for public procurement.
This has been a long and prolonged programme and one which originally, OFE at least, questioned its necessity, having followed a previous public survey. But having taken the decision to consult, few can now argue with the integrity, rigour and depth of the independent analysis that has been followed – and has resulted in the singularly most important piece of policy and research analysis undertaken in this crucial topic area. The key issues have not been ducked, and the pragmatism and attention to the detail, and particularly the focus on implementation are welcome improvements to past thinking.
- OpenForum Europe welcomes the European Commission's Cloud strategy, but questions its choice of coordinator in the process of identifying key Cloud standards Sep 27, 2012
OFE - OpenForum Europe (OFE) welcomes the European Commission's approach to Cloud Computing laid out in its strategy paper published today, in particular its emphasis on the need to develop technical standards that will play a crucial role in ensuring that Cloud Computing remains an open, interoperable and innovative environment.
With a clear set of industry-wide standards Europe will be able to prevent individual Cloud suppliers from locking their users into their own closed and proprietary Cloud offerings. Earlier revolutions in computing, such as the birth of the personal computer, were hampered by this type of lock-in. It appears that the Commission is determined to avoid the same thing happening with Cloud Computing.
The Commission's emphasis on avoiding protectionism and its vision of a global, interconnected Cloud market show a clear understanding of how best to harness the full potential that Cloud Computing offers to users, whether they be businesses, individuals or governments.
- Press release: New EU Standards Regulation to boost innovation Sep 12, 2012
Recognition of standards from industry fora and consortia will boost innovation
Openforum Europe welcomes the agreement reached between European lawmakers to recognize ICT standards approved by industry fora and consortia without undue red tape.
The agreement is a very good one which will help to boost innovation primarily, but not exclusively, in the public sector.
The agreement on fora and consortia is part of a wide-ranging regulation designed to modernize the standards system in Europe. The regulation was endorsed by the European Parliament by an overwhelming majority during its Plenary session in Strasbourg today, and will enter into force in the 27 countries of the European Union on January 1st.
Government agencies and ministries are heavy users of ICT. Yet in Europe until now they have been prevented from directly referencing standards agreed by global industry fora and consortia such as the W3C – a consortium that approves standards for the World Wide Web. They could only reference standards agreed by formal standards bodies.
The new regulation will for the first time permit government ministries and agencies in Europe to reference the full range of standards that are available to the private sector.
OFE welcomes EU agreement on recognizing standards from industry fora and consortia
14th June 2012 - Openforum Europe welcomes the agreement reached between European lawmakers to recognize ICT standards approved by industry fora and consortia without undue red tape. The agreement reached between the European Parliament , the European Commission and the Council of Ministers last week is a very good one, which will boost innovation primarily, but not only, in the public sector.
The agreement on fora and consortia is part of an overall political
agreement on the shape of a new wide-ranging regulation designed to
modernize the standards system in Europe. The regulation will be
formally adopted by the European Parliament and national governments in
thecoming months and will enter into force in the 27 countries of the
European Union on January 1st.
Government agencies and ministries are heavy users of ICT. Yet in Europe until now government bodies can't reference standards agreed by industry fora and consortia such as the W3C – a consortium that approves standards for the World Wide Web. They can only reference standards agreed by formal standards bodies.
- Press Release - OpenForum Europe calls on Poland to improve its IT procurement habits Feb 13, 2012
OFE 13th February 2012 - Poland is by far the worst offender when it comes to naming IT trademarks in calls for tender by its public sector, according to OpenForum Europe's (OFE) latest Monitoring Report on the European IT procurement market.
Polish contracting authorities issued over a third of all the tenders across Europe that named IT suppliers during the final quarter of last year, the OFE Monitoring Report found.
However, Poland isn't the only country picking winners. Germany and France also issued a disproportionately high number of IT tenders making specific reference to a trademark during the final three months of last year.
Overall, the OFE Monitoring Report found that 16 percent of IT tenders issued in the final three months of 2011 made specific reference to a supplier's trademark. This is an increase from 13 percent recorded in a similar OFE monitoring report published six months earlier.
EU procurement laws try to ensure that public procurement at both national and EU level gives equal treatment to potential bidders and doesn't discriminate in favour of one or another supplier.
Naming trademarks in tenders is viewed as discriminatory and the cause of distortions in the market, and is usually against existing EU procurement laws, except under certain circumstances.
The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, is currently revising the laws governing public procurement. One of the objectives is to make the procurement process more transparent and open, particularly to smaller suppliers.
Public procurement accounts for nearly 20 percent of the EU's gross domestic product – around 2.2 trillion euros, according to Eurostat figures from 2009. By specifying one preferred supplier public bodies are inadvertently helping dominant firms maintain their stranglehold on markets to the detriment of smaller competitors.
The OFE Monitoring Report found that by far the most common trademark to be referenced in IT calls for tender was Microsoft, which accounted for just under 40 percent of all recorded trademark references.
“Europe has thousands of small IT firms that in many instances are simply frozen out of the public procurement process by restrictions such as the naming of trademarks in calls for tender,” said Bob Blatchford, chief operating officer of OFE.
“The problem of naming IT brands in public tenders isn't going away. From our latest Monitoring Report it appears the problem is actually getting worse,” he said.
The situation in Poland is of particular concern. “We urge the Polish authorities to review their practices, particularly in light of the ongoing review of EU procurement laws,” Mr Blatchford said.
The OFE Monitoring Report examined 600 IT tender notices by ministries and government agencies in 25 EU countries (excluding Greece and Bulgaria) and by the EU itself issued in the final three months of 2011 – roughly half the total number of IT public tenders during that period.
In light of its findings OFE urges EU lawmakers to address such discriminatory practices as they debate the revision of the EU Public Procurement Directive.
“The existing directive has failed to keep a check on these practices, which are not only against the principles of competition and the fulfillment of the Single Market, but also act as obstacles to SMEs eager to compete in a market that should be open, innovative and transparent,” Mr Blatchford said.
OFE reiterates the three core recommendations to EU lawmakers that it made last year and in 2010:
1 Improve EU-wide guidelines to overcome lack of awareness of procurement law at local level, explaining clearly the long term costs of lock-in, and encouraging a life cycle perspective with regard to IT software and hardware procurement.
2 Closer scrutiny of the use of the negotiated procedure without calls for competition.
3 Align Regulations governing procurement by EU institutions and agencies with the reformed Procurement Directive to ensure that EU institutions are also encouraged to improve their tenders.
In addition, OFE has recommended its members to engage with procurement authorities across the EU to encourage them to mandate that IT procurement be standards-based and where available uses open standards – a crucial issue for software interoperability.
Full Report: PDF format - OFE Monitoring Report
- Open Data Challenge awards 20,000 euros in prizes to Europe's most exciting projects in the field of open government data Jun 16, 2011
BRUSSELS, June 16th 2011 - Europe's biggest ever open data competition concluded today when European Commission vice President Neelie Kroes handed out prizes totaling 20,000 euros at the Commission's Digital Agenda Assembly in Brussels.
The winner of the biggest prize - a cheque for 5000 euros - for the best application based on open data was ZNasichDani from Slovakia, whose Fair Play Alliance app allows journalists and others to scrutinize government procurement contracts in her home country.Winners Summary
- OFE press release: European Commission adopts legal package on standardisation reform Jun 01, 2011
Brussels -The European Commission's proposal to open up EU's approach to standardisation will increase efficiency, openness, and transparency, Openforum Europe (OFE) said on Wednesday.
- OFE Procurement Report 2010: More than one in ten government IT tenders illegally specify brands May 23, 2011
Openforum Europe's annual assessment of procurement practice across the European Union reveals that for the third year running a significant proportion of government agencies are illegally specifying trademarks when they engage suppliers from the private sector for specific IT contracts worth billions of euros.
- Press Release - Open Data Challenge goes live, offering 20,000 euros in prizes Apr 06, 2011
The Open Data Challenge launches this week offering €20,000 in prize money to encourage people to think of interesting ways of reusing public data for the benefit of European citizens.
The pan-European competition encourages those with programming skills to have a go at building their dream app using public data. But it doesn’t matter if you aren’t a computer geek. There’s a section of the competition called ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if...?’, which allows anyone to submit an idea for how to reuse public data.
Public bodies generate a huge amount of data about every aspect of our lives; everything from how our hard earned tax is spent to statistics about bicycle accidents on inner city roads. Much of this data never sees the light of day, and just sits gathering dust in a bureaucrat’s office, but this is changing.
- Openforum Europe welcomes the publication of the UK Government's ICT strategy Mar 31, 2011
OFE - The UK Government published its long-awaited ICT Strategy document today, confirming its determination to move the public sector in the UK away from being locked in to large scale single supplier proprietary software solutions.
Openforum Europe (OFE) welcomes the move and congratulates the UK Government on its visionary thinking, and urges local and regional public bodies around the UK to follow central government's lead.
“The Strategy focuses on an open approach to ICT, mandating open standards, re-aligning the playing field for open source, and encouraging greater SME participation in government ICT contracts. This is all to be commended,” said Graham Taylor, chief executive of OFE.
- OFE Press Release - UK Government pushes for open standards and open source software Mar 02, 2011
Three new government initiatives in the field of open public sector computing in the past month show that at a national level at least, the UK is one of the strongest supporters of open standards and open source software in Europe. Unfortunately at grass roots level local governments around the UK remain stubbornly wedded to proprietary computer systems that lock them and their citizens' data into closed computer systems.
- European Interoperability Framework – a bold move to spread the benefits of open standards and interoperability Dec 16, 2010
OFE Press Release - After over two years of controversial debate and under intense scrutiny from the information and communication technology (ICT) industry, the European Commission has shown courage by adopting a bold set of guidelines to help national, regional and local governments throughout the European Union make their computer systems all work properly together.
- European Commission's eGovernment Action Plan champions interoperability and open standards in IT Dec 16, 2010
OFE Press Release - Openforum Europe welcomes the European Commission's groundbreaking plan to connect governments around Europe with their citizens and businesses using open, flexible, cost-effective and collaborative IT technologies. The eGovernment Action Plan unveiled this week lives up to the ambitious vision expressed by national governments in their 2009 Malmo Declaration, and lays the foundation for building a smart, interconnected and inclusive public sector across Europe.
- New horizontal guidelines a shot in the arm for standardization Dec 15, 2010
OFE Press Release - Openforum Europe's reaction to the European Commission's adoption on Tuesday of a new set of rules governing how competitors in an industry can co-operate without falling foul of competition rules:
Paul Meller e: email@example.com
Graham Taylor e: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bob Blatchford e: email@example.com
Basil Cousins e: firstname.lastname@example.org
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