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European Parliament approves software patents -- with limitations

Written by Petteri Pyyny (Google+) @ 24 Sep 2003 13:56 User comments (1)

European Parliament approves software patents -- with limitations European Parliament voted today on the latest technoligical hot potato, software patents. Previously, there has been no universal rule for software patents within the European Union (or there actually has been one that has stated that software can't be patented, but it has never been seriously enforced) and the fears were high that EU ends up having same kind of patent legislation that U.S. and Japan currently have.
In the U.S., it is perfectly legal to patent even very basic programming techniques if there's no "prior art" existing before the "invention". Anyway, now European Parliament approved software patents within the EU. But it seems that rather radical grass-roots movement within open source community in Europe, has managed to do something about the issue and Parliament approved the legislation only with some major amendments to the original proposal.

New approved legislation outlaws patenting algorithms, business logic (such as Amazon.com's "one-click shopping" patent in the U.S.). The specific text stated that "Inventions involving computer programs which implement business, mathematical or other methods and do not produce any technical effect beyond the normal physical interactions between a program and the computer, network or other programmable apparatus in which it is run, shall not be patentable".

But the next test comes from the European Commission which introduced the original proposal to the Parliament. Commissioner Bolkestein announced before the Parliament metting today that if "unacceptable amendments", such as those that Parliament today approved, were approved, Commission might pull the whole porposal from the European Parliament and negotiate the new patent rules within European Patent Convention that wouldn't require any input from Parliament whatsoever. So, in real life, if Mr. Bolkestein's sponsors don't get what they want from the Parliament, Mr. Bolkenstein doesn't want to play with Parliament at all, but does the legislation on his own.

If the EC doesn't pull the plug from the proposal, it goes to Council of Ministers where 15 member states analyze the legislation and if they don't think that there are anything to change, it goes back to the European Parliament for second round of voting. If the second round of voting passes (it can also introduce more amendments), the directive passes and will become a law within the European Union once all the 15 (now, 25 in 2004) member states implement into their own legislation.

So, software patents were approved today -- that's bad. But most of the teeth were removed from the legislation -- that's good. And now there's one unhappy Commissioner -- that's.. dunno what..

More information:

FFII
ZDNet UK
TheRegister
VNUNet

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1 user comment

125.9.2003 4:34

Gotta love the EU.

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