Patenting software in EU remains divisive

Oskar L. oskar at
Thu Jul 7 00:17:45 CEST 2005,europa

Patenting software in EU remains divisive - EP kills directive on harmonising

Using its muscle like never before, the European Parliament has thrown out
a controversial bill to harmonise patents on software. This was in the
face of a united position of the 25 member states. Such a rejection at
only the second reading for the EU legislature was unprecedented. The
assembly was too divided to muster the absolute majority needed to amend
the bill; And so the lawmakers decided 648 votes to 14 to kill it. The
European Commission warned that the result would cause fragmentation among
25 competing patenting systems in Europe.

The bill's main handler in parliament, Michel Rocard, said: "The argument
which brought about such a broad-based and firm decision to reject was the
parliament's wish to send the member states and the Commission a strong
signal: don't keep treating parliament in this way." Advocates for free
software had feared the Directive on the Patentability of Computer
Implemented Inventions would choke innovation... that this would let big
firms patent software that small operators feel should be publicly
available. But both sides drew some comfort from the outcome.

A leading policy voice among the main big firms said that at least
innovators' intellectual property protection was still in place, which is
critical for European competitiveness. One supporter of free software and
small developers said reverting to the current system was better than
having to accept a bad bill.

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