Thursday, February 17, 2005

EU Software Patent Law Faces Axe

Some of you remmember my post about the upcoming vote on the European Software patent Directive the other week, and me urgeing you to fax your MEP.

This is the response I received the other day,

Dear Mr Jones,

Re: The patenting of computer-implemented inventions ("software patents")

Thank you for contacting Mr Karim concerning the proposed EU Directive on the patentability of computer-implemented inventions. The Liberal Democrats are in favour of increased legal certainty in the EU and, in principle, support the Commission's proposal; a balance needs to be struck between the needs of small business on the one hand, to protect their inventions - and big business, on the other, from patenting everything to the exclusion of competitors. This has guided our approach to the legislation during its passage through the European Parliament.

The European Parliament voted its first reading on the proposal in September 2003 where amendments were adopted to strictly limit patents to new inventions only. The amendments were also designed to ensure that patents would not be issued for pure software, thus seeking to address concerns expressed by the open source community. The Parliament's position would harmonise current practice in the European Patents Office, and ensure that patents in the field of computer engineering would be issued on the same basis in all EU Member States. Specifically, the UK Liberal Democrats supported an amendment to the definition, so that "In order to be patentable, a computer-implemented invention must be susceptible of industrial application and new and involve an inventive step. In order to involve an inventive step, a computer-implemented invention must make a technical contribution".

However, most of Parliament's amendments have since been rejected by the Council, which has since been unable to reach agreement on the proposal. Consequently, Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee voted on Wednesday 2nd February to ask the Commission to present a fresh proposal on the patenting of computer-implemented inventions (CII). The decision, taken by 19 votes in favour, 1 against and 1 abstention, means that Parliament President Josep BORRELL will now formally present this request to the Commission, under rule 55 of the EP's Rules of Procedure, after consultation of the Conference of Presidents. The Commission must now decide whether to resubmit a fresh draft of the proposal or allow the original proposal to be entirely dropped. Rest assured that Liberal Democrats will continue to fight for a fair outcome on this issue.

Yours sincerely,

Daniel Jones
At least they where being fair minded about the whole thing, not that it matters any more (in the short term) as the European Parliament has thrown out the bill that would have allowed software to be patented.

Politicians unanimously rejected the bill and now it must go through another round of consultation if it is to have a chance of becoming law.

During consultation the software patents bill could be substantially re-drafted or even scrapped.

The bill was backed by hi-tech firms that said they needed the protections it offered to make research worthwhile.

This does not mean the end of the situation thou as now the latest rejection means that the bill on computer inventions must go back to the EU for re-consideration.

So I urge you all once more to use fax your MEP, it's easy it only took me five minutes at most and I got a response within 5 days by email. You can make deference let your voice be heard.


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