[Talk] Fwd: The European Parliament has amended the patent directive to clearly exclude software patents

Arjen Lentz arjen at mysql.com
Mon Sep 29 09:00:11 EST 2003

The European Parliament amended the patent directive to clearly exclude 
software patents.

See http://swpat.ffii.org/news/03/plen0923/

In its plenary vote on the 24th of September, the European Parliament 
approved the proposed directive on "patentability of 
computer-implemented inventions" with amendments that clearly restate 
the non-patentability of programming and business logic, and uphold 
freedom of publication and interoperation.

The day before the vote, CEC Commissioner Bolkestein had threatened 
that the Commission and the Council would withdraw the directive 
proposal and hand the questions back to the national patent 
administrators on the board of the European Patent Office (EPO), should 
the Parliament vote for the amendments which it supported today.  "It 
remains to be seen, whether the European Commission is committed to 
"harmonisation and clarification" or only to patent owner interests", 
says Hartmut Pilch, president of FFII.  "This is now our directive too. 
  We must help the European Parliament defend it."

"The directive text as amended by the European Parliament clearly 
excludes software patents.  It hangs together incredibly cohesively.  I 
think we have done something amazing this week" exclaimed James Heald, 
a member of the FFII/Eurolinux software patent working group, as he put 
together the voted amendments into a consolidated version.

"With the new provisions of article 2, a computer-implemented invention 
is no longer a trojan horse, but a washing machine", explains Erik 
Josefsson from SSLUG and FFII, who has been advising Swedish MEPs on 
the directive in recent weeks. That the majorities for the voted 
amendments had support from very different political groups - this 
reflects the arduous political discussion that had led to two 
postponements before.

However, when 78 amendments are voted in 40 minutes some glitches are 
bound to happen: "The recitals were not amended thouroughly.   One of 
them still claims algorithms to be patentable when they solve a 
technical problem.", says Jonas Maebe, Belgian FFII representative 
currently working in the European Parliament.  "But we have all the 
ingredients for a good directive. We've been able to do the rough 
sculpting work.  Now the patching work can begin.  The spirit of the 
European Patent Convention is 80% reaffirmed, and the Parliament is in 
a good position to remove the remaining inconsistencies in the second 

The directive will have to withstand further consultation with the 
Council of Ministers that is more informal and hence less public than 
Parliamentary Procedures.  In the past, the Council of Ministers has 
left patent policy decisions to its "patent policy working party", 
which consists of patent law experts who are also sitting on the 
administrative council of the European Patent Office (EPO).  This group 
has been one of the most determined promoters of unlimited 
patentability, including program claims, in Europe.

Says Laura Creighton, software entrepreneur and venture capitalist, who 
has supported the FFII/Eurolinux campaign with donations and travelled 
from Sweden to Brussels several times to attend conferences and 
meetings with MEPs:

Now those people who claimed to be opposed to having a US style mess, 
but only liked the bill because it permitted such things, will have to 
expose themselves. I predict a good number of them will claim that we 
must not pass this one, because we need a bill that makes us more 
similar to the US and Japan for the sake of not angering our trading 

Now is the time to ask European politicians to show courage, and world 
leadership and vote up the directive that the American citizens, 
government, SMEs and Alan Greenspan wish they had instead of the 
current mess.  Ask them to harmonise with Europe.  The members of the 
European Parliament deserve thanks for their efforts in understanding 
the social consequences of this admittedly difficult technical 
decision.  This has not happened anywhere else in the world so far.  We 
Europeans can be proud of this political achievement, and I hope our 
politicians share this pride.

Arjen Lentz, Technical Writer, Trainer
Brisbane, QLD Australia
MySQL AB, www.mysql.com

Melbourne 1 December (5 days): Using & Managing MySQL Training
Training,Support,Licenses,T-shirts @ https://order.mysql.com/?marl

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