EC pushes on with patent directive

EC pushes on with patent directive

Summary: The European Commission looks determined to ignore last week's calls for a rewrite of the software patent directive

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TOPICS: Government UK
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The European Commission is pushing the EU Council to ratify the controversial software patent directive, sweeping aside the concerns raised last week by a European Parliament committee.

Last week the Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) of the European Parliament (EP) demanded that the Computer Implemented Inventions Directive (CIID) be started from scratch. The European Commission (EC) is not obliged to agree to the EP's request for a restart, but is under pressure to adhere to the will of the Parliament.

But an EC spokeswoman said on Friday that the Council is prepared to renegotiate the patent directive, but does not want to start again from scratch.

"The software patent directive is absolutely necessary," said the EC spokeswoman. "We're prepared to discuss things, but can't even get as far as discussing things if other institutions don't move things forward."

Anti-patent campaigners initially expected the EU Council to delay ratifying the directive for a few months due to the restart motion proposed by the EP, but the EC is urging the Council to go ahead with its original plans, appearing to ignore the EP's request.

The EC spokeswoman said it is frustrated that the EU Council, which had planned to ratify the directive on 17 February, has now postponed its plans.

"We're very disappointed that it's off the agenda for the 17th," said the spokeswoman.

As for the restart initiative, the spokeswoman said that JURI's plans have to be agreed in a full session of the European Parliament.

"It was only one committee [that asked for a restart]," said the spokeswoman. "In order for the committee's opinion to be adopted by the parliament it has to be voted by plenary."

But according to to one activist, a plenary vote would not be needed.

The last two weeks have been a rollercoaster ride for those campaigning against the directive. On 4 February, two days after JURI asked for a restart, the Polish Press Agency said that Poland would no longer stop the EU Council from ratifying the directive, although it said it would support any country's request for the directive to be delayed or revised.

On 8 February, the Spanish parliament unanimously passed a resolution against the EU Council's proposal for the software patent directive and called on the Spanish government to prevent the ratification of the Council's current proposal. On the same day UEAPME, the European association for small and medium business and crafts, said it welcomed the EP's demand for a restart due to concerns about the threat that the patent directive poses to SMEs.

Two days later the Dutch parliament passed a resolution that called on its government to oppose the adoption of the Council's proposal until the EC has decided whether to restart the entire legislative process.

Next week, the German parliament will vote on a motion that demands substantial modifications to the Council's present proposal.

Topic: Government UK

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11 comments
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  • Perhaps the real topic here isn't software patents but rather if the EC has rights to exist in the first place. Given its totally ignorant and arrogant attitude towards changes of heart (perhaps inspired by better information gathering) within the greater democratic community that it is suppose to serve. And given that doing the wrong actions could very well turn out to be very costly mistakes that'll impact many. As such a refinding of facts should be welcomed by any powerfull democratic institution which takes its tasks seriously.

    Better safe then sorry.
    anonymous
  • The comission is just a bunch of lobbyist, not democratically elected - actually thought to be the gofer for the parliament. The sorry state of the european union is just that: the commission now holds all the power whereas the parliament is just there to give it some democratic credibility by signing it.

    The Big Business that can afford the lobbyists to pay for the laws they want, get the laws they want.

    This whole delay about software patents is only annoying, but in the end they will have their way.

    What else? Does anybody really think we are _actually_ living in a democracy? Come on!

    ...But at least we get to decide every few years whether we are being fucked over by Coca Cola or if it's Pepsi this time ... that's something, I guess...
    anonymous
  • The Commission have done the right thing, undemocratic as the process may have been.

    The proposed directive does not "legalise" software patenting, but instead formalises the status quo in the EC, as currently practiced by the European Patent Office.

    Software patents have been available in Europe for many years.

    The goal of the directive is to PREVENT PATENT LAW SLIPPING TOWARDS CURRENT PRACTICE IN THE US, where shoddy software patents are granted on a regular basis, creating uncertainty for programmers.

    The irony is that the open source community is seeking to prevent the very thing that will protect them against a proliferation of dubious software patents.

    My message to the open source community is that patents are a commercial reality, and that given that is the case, it is better to restrict software patenting to those of high quality (this will be the effect of the directive), as opposed to following the route taken by the US.

    Sanity must prevail.
    anonymous
  • Mr. Trainee Patent Attorney, you've been badly informed. This is not about the Open Source community. This is about the IP from small firms and small guys versus the IP of the big, mostly overseas, firms.

    The proposed directive is about legalising the wrongfull granting of software patents by patent offices. Who have been motivated to grant as many patents, of all sizes and shapes, as possible. In short, a cover up. And a golden investment for big firms that largely own the thousands upon thousands of software patents once those are turned into legally binding software patents. Not to mention an excellent legal weapon to keep the small guys in check. Meaning: unemployed or doing exactly what the big firms want them to do.

    One only has to look at the kind of software patents already granted (but not legalized). Many of them are just concepts that will enable lawyers working for big firms with big budgets to drag to court almost every software creator out there today once those software patents are legalized (or as some would say: "formalized"). Open Source or not, doesn't matter. A small example. How many software programs out there have code within them that react to a single mosue click on a certain button on a web page? Almost all of them. That'll make the owner of that particular (concept) software patent very happy once that's "formalized" (or as some would say: legalized).

    The commercial reality of today are copyrights. Works well as has been shown by history.
    Software patents are only supported by the clueless and the greedy.
    anonymous
  • European Software Patent Horror Gallery
    http://tinyurl.com/6a4js

    European Software Patents: Assorted Examples
    http://tinyurl.com/4wc9a
    anonymous
  • Arthur B, please find my response below in parentheses.

    Mr. Trainee Patent Attorney, you've been badly informed. (I deal with software patents on a daily basis and would like to think that I know something about them. I have also actually read the proposed directive. Have you?)

    This is not about the Open Source community. (Yes it is, although perhaps not exclusivley)

    This is about the IP from small firms and small guys versus the IP of the big, mostly overseas, firms. (A reason why European firms have weaker IP in software is that the legal situation in Europe is unclear. It is an aim of the directive to resolve this)

    The proposed directive is about legalising the wrongfull granting of software patents by patent offices. Who have been motivated to grant as many patents, of all sizes and shapes, as possible. In short, a cover up. (Dear oh dear, this is just plain paranoid)

    And a golden investment for big firms that largely own the thousands upon thousands of software patents once those are turned into legally binding software patents. Not to mention an excellent legal weapon to keep the small guys in check. (the flip side of this is that SMEs can use their own IP to fend off larger firms. IP is also an important source of revenue for smaller firms - it atracts investment and can be used for cross licensing)

    Meaning: unemployed or doing exactly what the big firms want them to do. (really, honestly, they're not out to get you)

    One only has to look at the kind of software patents already granted (but not legalized).
    (I'm not sure what you mean by this, software patents are perfectly enforceable in european courts - in what sense are they not legal?)

    Many of them are just concepts that will enable lawyers working for big firms with big budgets to drag to court almost every software creator out there today (this just doesnt happen in reality. Very few patents are ever actually litegated)

    once those software patents are legalized (or as some would say: "formalized").


    Open Source or not, doesn't matter. A small example. How many software programs out there have code within them that react to a single mosue click on a certain button on a web page? Almost all of them. That'll make the owner of that particular (concept) software patent very happy once that's "formalized" (or as some would say: legalized).
    (Once more, this just doesnt occur in reality. The example you give is a bad one because "clicking with a mouse" is obvious, patents are not available for obvious inventions. Some people believe that truly good ideas should be rewarded, so as to encourage further innovation)

    The commercial reality of today are copyrights. Works well as has been shown by history. (copyright is almost, but not entirely, impossible to enforce. It is therefore approximately useless)
    anonymous
  • >One only has to look at the kind of software
    > patents already granted (but not legalized).
    Absolutely. Totally right. Patnets have been granted, especially in the US, with insufficient examination. The prior art has not been properly searched. THAT IS THE FAULT - not the law! Which is why the legal position on software patenting in the EU needs to be clarified.
    As for big firms using IP to hit smaller firms, that has been happening for c.130 years, over software, metals, chemicals, mechanical devices.... that is the commercial reality of patents! Do you believe ALL patents should be abolished?
    anonymous
  • Mr. Trainee Patent Attorney, dealing with software patents on a daily basis and having read the proposed directive doesn't exactly make you an IP laywer and experienced software developer as well, does it?

    Tell me, on what legal basis are software patents currently being granted? How much is charged for that service? What's the decision making process for granting a software patent? Is the legal and commercial impact a software patent might have part of that decision making process? What if the legal and commercial impact a software patent has changes because the law changes, would that make any difference to the decision making process? Would already granted software patents be revoked under certain circumstances and if so, which ones? Under which circumstances could the Patent Office itself be draged to court?

    Fact is that mostly big firms are pushing for legalized software patents in the EU. Is that to clear up the legal position of software patents in the EU? Most certainly, but could you enlighten us as to why they want that? Have software patents been granted for obvious "inventions"? Well, would you quit your job if we could point out just one? Can truly good ideas be rewarded without legalized software patents? Most certainly. Will smaller firms with a software patented IP be better protected against bigger firms with an enormous software patented IP and huge legal resources? I think not.

    It seems to me that the group of pro software patent people is getting smaller and less powerfull by the day. I think there are reasons for that which have been explained in length.

    Here's a web site you might find interesting. It's not perfectly balanced but should provide enough leads to research further by means of more independant web sites.

    http://www.nosoftwarepatents.com/en/m/intro/index.html

    http://www.base.com/software-patents/examples.html
    anonymous
  • TheMoai, since I only mentioned software patents there's absolutely no ground for you to suddenly start talking about patents in general.

    As for the legal position of software patenting in the EU. Yes that needs to be clarified. But given the sorry state that's currently in it would be far wiser to either drop the current proposal or start from scratch.

    So far there's an existing IT economy within the EU that seems to perform rather well. No need to burden them with new laws that are being lobbied for by payed for lobbiests and clueless politicians.
    anonymous
  • Arthur B., more replies below.

    Mr. Trainee Patent Attorney, dealing with software patents on a daily basis and having read the proposed directive doesn't exactly make you an IP laywer and experienced software developer as well, does it?

    (I'm not sure that I said it did. However, my job does give me a familiarity with software patents, what they are and what they are not. I have also done plenty of coding in my time.)

    Tell me, on what legal basis are software patents currently being granted?

    (These are granted by the EPO under the European Patent Convention, and also by National Offices such as the UK Patent Office. Just like any other patent.)

    How much is charged for that service?
    What's the decision making process for granting a software patent? Is the legal and commercial impact a software patent might have part of that decision making process?
    What if the legal and commercial impact a software patent has changes because the law changes, would that make any difference to the decision making process?

    Would already granted software patents be revoked under certain circumstances and if so, which ones?

    (They would become unenforceable.
    They would also be revokable by application to the national courts in the EU.)

    Under which circumstances could the Patent Office itself be draged to court?

    (Cant think of any)

    Fact is that mostly big firms are pushing for legalized software patents in the EU. Is that to clear up the legal position of software patents in the EU? Most certainly, but could you enlighten us as to why they want that?

    (To make money, of course. Really, I dont want to get into a debate about the pros and cons of capitalism)

    Have software patents been granted for obvious "inventions"?

    (Yes. Although the standard of examination at the European Patent Office is generally accepted to be of a very high quality (far better than that at the US Patent Office, for example), some applications slip through the net and are granted in a shoddy state. This is not a reason to ditch the system though, the issue here is more to do with improving the quality of examination at the patent office. This, again, is an aim of the directive.)

    Well, would you quit your job if we could point out just one?

    (For the reasons given above, absolutely not)

    Can truly good ideas be rewarded without legalized software patents? Most certainly.

    (I note that you give no examples. Patents are a tried and tested way of encouraging innovation in a wide range of technologies. Patents work.)

    Will smaller firms with a software patented IP be better protected against bigger firms with an enormous software patented IP and huge legal resources? I think not.

    It seems to me that the group of pro software patent people is getting smaller and less powerfull by the day.

    (Dont you believe it.)

    I think there are reasons for that which have been explained in length.

    (The current attitiude in my industry is one of shock that the Parliment can be so stupid.)

    Here's a web site you might find interesting. It's not perfectly balanced but should provide enough leads to research further by means of more independant web sites.

    http://www.nosoftwarepatents.com/en/m/intro/index.html

    http://www.base.com/software-patents/examples.html

    (I have seen these sites. I think they are a sad reflection of the lack of understanding/awareness of what patents and the directive are about. It seems that a little ignorance can go a long way.

    One last point - There are many more software patents in the US. They are generally accepted to be of lower qualitiy than European patents, and have been around longer. If software patents are so harmfull to industry, then why is the software inustry in the states so successfull?

    Please take ten minutes to read the directive before you dismiss it - its only a few pages long)
    anonymous
  • To put an end to this "discussion".

    Software patents are not needed. One obvious reason is that copyright laws are good enough. Furthermore, the industry that would be impacted by software patents the most is dead against it (with the exception of the big players, mostly overseas, who have their own, personal and commercial, reasons for being for software patents) and also because it would kill innovation rather then improve it.

    Fine and interesting looking words on a piece of paper (like a patent directive) that at first glance by the unexperienced eye look to be the best thing since sliced bread will turn into deadly legal weapons by sneaky laywers from huge companies with great cash reservers once turned into law by those who are clueless or have personal agendas. Just like the small print in contracts, they are there for the sole benefit of those who are pushing you to sign the piece of paper. What they told you and what they let you see is usually not what they want you to sign. And what you read is usually not what it (legally) means.

    But have no fear, say some, because those who do not understand the industry (only their own little corner of the world) say they will protect us from their own mistakes. That's right, they do not wish to listen to our compliants and warnings because they know what's good for us. Yet that's no reason to fear that they will keep on making mistakes which will mostly impact us rather then them (they just do patents and law making and strangely enough that's exactly what they want more of because they claim that's what's good for us???). Yeah right. Sounds to me like a car salesman trying to convince me that buying a car, his car, is for my benefit, not his. No thanks, I already have a car that's not broken and well maintained so bye. I'm sure that the car salesman will claim that my current car is broken and needs maintainance but that's only relevant to those who believe car salesmen (or car manufacturers) rather then car owners (or car mechanics).
    anonymous