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European patent directive defeated

It's been a long and arduous saga, but it looks like the Computer Implemented Inventions Directive (CIID) has finally been soundly defeated, 648-14. I have to admit, I'm a little surprised by this result since it seemed likely at many points that this would get shoved through despite overwhelming opposition.

It's been a long and arduous saga, but it looks like the Computer Implemented Inventions Directive (CIID) has finally been soundly defeated, 648-14. I have to admit, I'm a little surprised by this result since it seemed likely at many points that this would get shoved through despite overwhelming opposition.

It looks like the European Parliament (EP) called the European Commission's (EC) bluff, which means it may be a while before the issue pops up again -- back in March, EC commissioner Charlie McCreevy said that he wouldn't propose a new directive if Parliament rejects the current CIID.

Perhaps the outcome had been different had the EC listened to the EP in the first place and allowed the process to restart. Judging by the comments from some of the MEPs, the directive would have had a chance if the EC had accepted the proposed amendments from Parliament.

The defeat of the CIID doesn't mean the fight against software patents is over, of course. The U.S. still has a broken patent system that allows ridiculous software patents, and national patent offices in Europe still have different interpretations of what can and cannot be patented.

With the CIID behind us, at least for now, the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) can work on strengthening Article 52 of the European Patent Convention which expressly denies patents on "programs for computers," though it has been weakened over the years by subsequent interpretation by the European Patent Office.

One issue that was brought up over and over again during the CIID debates was the need for Europe to "harmonize" with the U.S. on software patents. Harmonization is a two-way street. Since the EP has shot down software patents (for now) perhaps we should be making an effort to "harmonize" with the European Union by rejecting software patents in the U.S.

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