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CSSA  September 2003

CSSA September 2003

Subject:

Software patents approved in EU

From:

David Van Horn <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Computer Science Student Association <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 25 Sep 2003 12:43:41 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (65 lines)

CSSAers,

I just wanted share with you the following bit of news.  It seems the EU has
adopted a software patent program.  It should be interesting to get Richard
Stallman's perspective on this news when he speaks on Oct 14.

/David


EU software patent plan gets thumbs up
By Matthew Broersma
Special to CNET News.com
http://news.com.com/2100-1028-5081974.html

The European Parliament voted to approve highly controversial legislation that
governs patents for computer-related inventions--but some amendments appear to
be a victory for critics of the original proposal.

The amendments also could make it difficult for the directive to complete its
journey through the European Union's Byzantine lawmaking procedures, with
Commissioner Frits Bolkestein threatening to kill it in favor of negotiating
an intergovernmental treaty that would require no democratic scrutiny.

The text was approved on its first reading with 364 in favor, 153 against and
33 abstentions.


The so-called Directive on the Patentability of Computer-Implemented
Inventions was presented as a technical adjustment to harmonize the way
patents are treated by national governments across the EU. It seeks to correct
a current problem whereby patents may be granted by the European Patent
Office, but not enforced in member states, because they cover software or
business processes, which existing law blocks from being patented. The
directive, its proponents argued, would clarify what could and could not be
patented, offering clarity for businesses.

The proposal was criticized by small-business groups, software developers,
economists and corporations as failing to clearly define patent limits, and
thus allowing any software to be patented.

The directive was passed with several amendments that had been supported by
critics. One amendment, its advocates said, more clearly defines what can be
patented and what cannot. Another allows a patented technique to be used
without authorization or royalty payments if it is needed solely to ensure
interoperability.

The latter exemption was opposed by a representative of the U.S. State
Department in a recent position paper to the EU leaked by activists.

On Tuesday, in a debate ahead of the vote, Commissioner Bolkestein also
criticized the amendments, telling the Parliament that "the majority of those
amendments will be unacceptable to the commission." He said if the
"unacceptable" amendments were passed, the commission could withdraw the
directive entirely and seek to achieve patent harmonization through a
renegotiation of the European Patent Convention.

"If I may be blunt...the process of renegotiation of the European Patent
Convention would not require any contribution from this Parliament,"
Bolkestein told the Parliament.

If the directive passes through the rest of the EU's decision procedure,
member states will be required to implement it in local law.

ZDNet UK's Matthew Broersma reported from London.

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