Archive for: free or libre and open source software

Patent law, case VI SA/Wa 2279/08

October 27th, 2009, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 27 May 2009 case file VI SA/Wa 2279/08 ruled that the Polish Patent Office is not an authority that mechanically approves patents granted by the EPO. The Court held that if the dispute between the applicant and the Polish Patent Office related to the nature of the invention, as is was in this case, by refusing to grant a patent, the Patent Office in principle cannot merely on its own conviction as to the subject of the patent application. The PPO should seek to gather sufficient evidence to support its position. Such evidence could include witness-expert testimony. The absence of a comprehensive hearing of evidence and basing the questioned decisions mostly on its own belief in the recognition, what is the subject of the patent application, and such a situation took place in this case, justified the infringement of Articles 7, 77 § 1 and Article 107 § 3 of the APC, as having a significant impact on the outcome of the case.

Article 7
Public administration bodies shall uphold the rule of law during proceedings and shall take all necessary steps to clarify the facts of a case and to resolve it, having regard to the public interest and the legitimate interests of members of the public.

(…)

Article 77.
§ 1. The public administration body is required to comprehensively collect and examine all evidential material.
§ 2. At each stage of proceedings a body can amend, supplement or withdraw rulings made regarding the examination of evidence.
§ 3. An body conducting proceedings as a result of having been required to do so by the body having jurisdiction to settle the case (Article 52) may, on an ex officio basis or on application by one of the parties, hear new witnesses or experts on circumstances that form the objects of such proceedings.
§ 4. Universally accepted facts and facts known to the body ex officio do not require proof. Parties to proceedings should be informed of facts that are known to the body.

(…)

Article 107.
§ 1. A decision should contain: the name of the public administration body, the date of issue, the name(s) of the party or parties, the legal authority referred to, a ruling, a factual and legal justification, an advisory notice as to whether and how an appeal may be brought and the signature, name and position of the person authorised to issue the decision. Any decision which may be challenged by a petition to the civil court or a complaint to the administrative court should contain an advisory notice that such a petition or complaint may be brought.
§ 2. Other regulations may contain other elements which a decision should contain.
§ 3. The factual justification of the decision should contain the facts that the body regards as proven, the evidence relied upon and the reasons for which other evidence has been treated as not authentic and without probative force. The legal justification should contain the legal authority for the decision with reference to the relevant law.
§ 4. If the decision fully reflects the demands of the party then there is no need to provide a justification for the decision, but this does not apply to decisions in contentious cases and decisions given on appeal.
§ 5. A body can also dispense with a justification of a decision in such cases if under current statutory regulations there is a possibility of dispensing with or limiting the justification because of the interests of State security or public order.

The Court ruled that the PPO should make a thorough analysis of the concept of “technical character of the invention” and should indicate why it interprets it very narrowly, taking in this respect the view of the EPO. The PPO should also consider whether the European patent has been granted for the same solution, and examine the merits of different assessment of the invention in Poland. During the re-hearing of the case the PPO will will take the position whether the applied solution has been sufficiently disclosed, and if so, only then will further examine its patentability, given that one of the elements of assessing the patentability of the invention is a technical solutions. Due to the lack of legal definition of a “solution of a technical nature” in assessing a technical nature of the present invention the PPO is obliged to indicate what in the opinion of the PPO is deemed as “technical solution”. The PPO will assess the technical nature of the claimed invention and will refer to the applicant’s arguments, if the interpretation of that concept made by the PPO would continue to differ on how this concept is understood to the applicant.

Access to public information, case V Ca 454/07

July 30th, 2007, Tomasz Rychlicki

Sergiusz Pawłowicz who was also the leading programmer of Janosik project, went the same administrative proceedings as the ISOC Poland. See “Access to public information, case OSK 600/04“. At the final stage the Supreme Administrative Court dismissed Sergiusz’s complaint on the decision of the Voivodeship Administrative Court case file II SAB/Wr 72/02, recognizing that the proper course shall be a civil action.

Sergiusz filed a complaint requesting the civil court to order ZUS to disclose specification of KSI MAIL protocol being public information. The Regional Court in Warszawa in its judgment of 8 December 2006 case file XVI C942/04 ruled that publication of the protocol that is used by Płatnik software will not affect in any way the integrity of safety of data sent by this software. Therefore all arguments raised by ZUS with regard to data security were unfounded. The Court also held that ZUS did not prove that the protocol of KSI MAIL is protected by copyrights that belongs to Prokom Software S.A. or whether Prokom received any patent covering this protocol. As for the argument that ZUS’s obligations regarding confidentiality of information about technologies used in Płatnik and its source code, which resulted from the agreement between ZUS and Prokom, the court held that according to the obligation to disclose public information as provided in the Article 13 of the Polish Act of 17 February 2005 on the Informatization of Entities Performing Public Tasks – IEPPT – (in Polish: ustawa o informatyzacji działalności podmiotów realizujących zadania publiczne), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 64, item 565 as amended, the provision of the agreement as a ius dispositivum, may not impose negative consequences on Sergiusz. The court also held that the use of the requested public information and legal interest that Sergiusz and its legal representative derrived from the social interest was beyond the scope of the whole dispute. Simply, there is no need to prove legal interest when requesting the access to public information.

ZUS filed an appeal complaint. The Appellate Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 23 April 2007 case file V Ca 454/07 dismissed it. The Court held that the court of first instance provided deep and proper analysis of binding legal norms and its judgment was correctly applied.

Access to public information, case OSK 600/04

September 12th, 2006, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Internet Society Poland requested the President of the Social Insurance Institution – ZUS – (in Polish: Zakład Ubezpieczeń Społecznych) to disclose public information concerning technical specification of the KSI MAIL format, that is used in Płatnik software. Płatnik computer program is a free but not open source software that can be used to fill in and send a statement of payment declarations to the Social Insurance Institution. It works only with MS Windows operating systems.

The President of ZUS ruled that the Polish Act of 13 October 1998 on the Social Insurance System, consolidated text published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) of 2007 No. 11, item 74 as amended, obliges payers of social insurance to prepare documents including inter alia protected data, for instance sensitive data concerning health, in the electronic format and to transmit of such documents from Płatnik to ZUS. These data are personal data protected by law. Making them available could result in significant disruption in the supply KSI MAIL system, exposing to a breach of professional secrecy of ZUS and undermine the statutory exclusivity of the software provided by ZUS. Regardless of the abovementioned arguments, ZUS stated that KSI MAIL module is subject to business confidentiality and trade secrets due to the greement conducted between ZUS and Prokom Software S.A. on the design and implementation of a comprehensive system for social security. The agreement obliged ZUS to keep confidential all information relating to the transferred technology and solutions contained in KSI MAIL. ZUS based its final decision on the provisions of Article 5 of the the Polish Act of 6 September 2001 on Access to Public Information – API – (in Polish: Ustawa o dostępie do informacji publicznej), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 112, item 1198, with subsequent amendments.

Article 5. 1. The right to public information is subject to limitation to the extent and on the principles defined in the provisions on the protection of confidential information and on the protection of other secrets being statutorily protected.
2. The right to public information is subject to limitation in relation to privacy of a natural person or the secret of an entrepreneur. The limitation does not relate to the information on persons performing public functions, being connected with performing these functions, including the conditions of entrusting and performing these functions and in the event when a natural person or entrepreneur resigns from the right to which he was entitled to.
3. The access to public information on matters resolved before the state authorities, in particular in the administrative, criminal or civil proceedings cannot be limited, with the stipulation of it. 1 and 2, with respect to protection of the party’s interest, if the proceedings concern the public authorities or other entities performing public functions or persons performing public functions – in the scope of these functions or tasks.
4. The limitations of access to information on cases, defined in it. 3, do not breach the right to information on organisation and work of the bodies conducting proceedings, in particular on time, mode and place and the order of investigating cases.

ISOC filed a complaint before the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw. It emphasized that the technical specification of KSI MAIL is public information. Its publication broadens the possibility of fulfilling the duties of citizens who do not wish to invest in MS Windows. ISOC further argued that ZUS can not rely on contractual provisions, as it was contrary to the mandatory provisions of the API and that they are invalid. Also, ZUS made an erroneous interpretation of the law to rely on business secrets and trade secrets, because ISOC did not request the source code of the program, or other works protected by copyright or industrial property rights/patents.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its order of 30 January 2004 case file II SA 3732/03 held that this request concerns matters that are not subject to the administrative jurisdiction, but the civil courts which is in accordance with the provisions of Article 22(1) of the API.

Article 22.
1. The entity, which was denied the access to the public information in respect to its exclusion of its openness when quoting the protection of personal data, the right to privacy and the secret other than state, official, treasury or statistical secret, is entitled to put an action to the court for making such information available.
2. The entity, to which the exclusion of public information is related, has a legal interest in commencing as an accidental intervener on the defendant’s side.
3. The competent court for resolving the cases, defined in it. 1, is the district court with respect to the seat of the entity, which refused to make the public information available.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 3 March 2004 case file OSK 600/04 stated that the cassation complaint is unfounded and declared that, the term “when quoting” as used in Article 22(1) of the API, has such meaning that it is sufficient for the entity who posses requested information to invoke the mentioned in this provision object of protection, to exclude the possibility of control by an administrative court. The administrative court cannot control in this case the legality of the decision and investigate if the indicated condition actually occurred.

Tax law, case file PO/005-1/06

May 21st, 2006, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Tax Office in Tarnowskie Góry in its decision of 10 February 2006 case file PO/005-1/06 ruled that unconditional sharing for free of a computer program to unlimited recipients is not a civil law act, and donations send by users of such program to its creators, are not a form of payment for the use of the program. There is therefore no legal relationship between the creators of the program and its users and there is no transfer of any rights by the creator to the user, and therefore this form of activity is not subject to tax on civil law transactions.

Tax law, case file PB3/GM-8213-12/06/144

May 21st, 2006, Tomasz Rychlicki

In the letter of 10 March 2006, file PB3/GM-8213-12/06/144, published in Biuletyn Skarbowy of 2006, no 2, pp. 21-22, the Undersecretary of State of the Ministry of Finance gave the official interpretation regarding tax consequences associated with the use of free software programs, addressed to the Directors of all the Tax Offices and Chambers. This letter was issued in order to ensure uniform application of the law under article 14 § 1 point 2 of the Tax Code, to convey an explanation of article 12(1) point 2 of the Polish Act of 15 February 1992 on the Legal Entities’ Income Tax – LEIT – (in Polish: Ustawa o podatku dochodowym od osób prawnych) consolidated text published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) of 2000, No. 54, item 654 with subsequent amendments, on the tax consequences associated with the use of free software.

Art. 12. [General notion of revenue] 1. Revenues, subject to paragraphs 3 and 4 and Articles 13 and 14, shall be, in particular:
2) the value of things or rights received free of charge or partially free of charge, as well as the value of other free-of-charge or partially free-of-charge performances, with the exception of performances linked with utilization of fixed assets received by budgetary establishments, subsidiary undertakings of budgetary entities, public utility companies 100% owned by local government bodies or their associations from the State Treasury, local government units or their association for gratuitous management or use;

In many cases during the economic activity, taxpayers benefit for purposes of the activities of the publicly available and free of charge computer programs that are available for instance via the Internet for all users. Although most of the software for these operating systems is free, however there are exceptions in the form of commercial software. The rule, however, is that the use of such programs are not related to any fees for their purchase, or license fees.

Provision of Article 12(1) point 2 of the Act on the Legal Entities’ Income Tax recognizes as revenues, the value of obtained free-of-charge or the value of partially free-of-charge things and rights. However, article 12 (5 – 6a) of the Act on the Legal Entities’ Income Tax sets, the value of unpaid or partially-paid performances and the value of free or partially-free acquired things or rights, which are the subject of income tax.

5. The monetary value of things or rights received free of charge shall be determined in accordance with market prices applicable in trading of things or rights of the same type and quality, in particular taking into account their condition, degree of wear, as well as the time and place of obtaining them.

5a. The value of partially paid for things or rights constituting taxpayer’s revenues shall be the difference between the value of those things or rights, determined in accordance with the principles laid down in paragraph 5, and the consideration paid by the taxpayer. The provision of Article 14.3 shall apply, as appropriate.

6. The value of gratuitous performances shall be determined in the following manner:
1) if the performance concerns services included in the commercial activities of the performing party – at prices applied to other recipients;
2) if the performance concerns purchased services – at purchasing prices;
3) if the performance concerns letting the use of premises – at the equivalent of the rent that would have been due under a potential lease contract for those premises;
4) in other cases – in accordance with market prices applied in the performance of services or letting the use of things or rights of the same type and quality, taking into account their condition, degree of wear, as well as the time and place of letting them for use.

6a. The value of partially paid for performances constituting taxpayer’s revenues shall be the difference between the value of those performances, determined in accordance with the principles laid down in paragraph 6, and the consideration paid by the taxpayer. The provision of Article 14.3 shall apply, as appropriate.

The provision of article 12(1) point 2 of the Act on the Legal Entities’ Income Tax should be taken together with article 12(6) of the LEIT, which defines how the value of income from unpaid performances is determined. This is established case-by-case. For instance it may be:

  • the price charged to other customers – if a subject of a performance are services being a part of the business of an entity that is making the performance,
  • the market price that is used for the same kind of rights, taking into consideration, in particular, degree of wear, as well as the time and place of letting them for use – other than those referred to aticle 12(6) points 1-3 of the LEIT.

In the case of rights obtained free of charge, the income is determined on the basis of prices used in the market turnover of rights of the same kind, in particular, their condition and degree of use and the time and place of such use. Tax law provisions establishing the value of tax revenue for the free performances received, do not foresee a situation where appropriate performance is free for all stakeholders.

Article 12(6) of the LEIT includes cases in which there is an opportunity to compare the value of gratuitous performances to other pecuniary performances that were made by the taxpayer. The possibility of determining the value of “comparable” performances of given kind, in the case of the free software that is available to all on equal (free-of-charge/gratuitous) basis, can not be performed, and thus there is no basis for determining the value of income.

If certain performances (including the transfer of rights) are inherently free-of-charge to all taxpayers, and not an individual case that would be applicable to the individual entity, it is not allowed to establish tax revenues in connection with the occurrence of such events, as referred to article 12(1) point 2 of the LEIT. This does not mean, however, that in assessing the possible tax consequences associated with the use of such software, there is no need to examine all the circumstances connected with it. Each case therefore requires individual analysis.

These explanation of the tax consequences associated with the use of the free software, apply as appropriate to taxpayers of income tax of individuals engaged in non-agricultural economic activity (art. 14 ust. 2 pkt 8 ustawy o podatku dochodowym od osób fizycznych).

Tax law, case USPP-IV-440/30/06/P-I/23717

April 21st, 2006, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Tax Office in Chorzów in its interpretation of 27 marca 2006 case file USPP-IV-440/30/06/P-I/23717 held that publishing of a computer program free of charge via the Internet with the possibility of its use by all, is not based on legal title, indicating the obligation for service and the salary and the amount of donations is not dependent on the service, so actons of the applicant cannot be deemed as performed for remuneration. Furthermore, there was no reason to believe that these actions were services provided free-of-charge and therefore this activity is not subject to tax on goods and services.