EC: We'd accept software patent defeat

EC: We'd accept software patent defeat

Summary: The European Commission says it would let the software patent directive die if enough support was mustered against it in the European Parliament. But some see this as a veiled threat

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TOPICS: Government UK
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The European Commission (EC) will not stand in the European Parliament's (EP) way if it decides to reject the draft directive on software-related patents, the Commission told the Parliament on Tuesday evening.

If the EP does decide to kill the directive, there will be no new proposal from the EC, Charlie McCreevy, commissioner for the Internal Market, told a Parliament plenary session. "You can of course reject or substantially amend the proposal," he said. "If the Parliament decides to reject it, then the Commission will respect your wishes. I will not propose a new directive."

The statement has been seen as a veiled threat by some observers. The EP has been pushing the Commission to submit a new proposal on software patenting, but McCreevy's comments make it clear that the EU will either get a directive based on the current text, or nothing at all. "It will indeed be difficult to get this rejected because many will believe that there should be some directive at the end of the process," said Florian Mueller, head of the NoSoftwarePatents.com campaign.

Critics, including prominent open source leaders, say the directive would open the doors to US-style software patents in Europe. Software patents would be an advantage to large companies with patent stockpiles while making it difficult for open-source projects and smaller companies to compete, industry observers say. The directive is supported by multinational IT companies such as IBM and Microsoft, who say it provides companies with valuable patent protection.

The EU Council, which represents the national governments of member states, formally endorsed the draft directive on the "patentability of computer-implemented inventions" on Monday morning, despite a resolution from Parliament asking for the legislative process to be restarted. The national governments of several countries, including Spain, the Netherlands, Poland and Denmark, have formally expressed their criticism of the current version of the directive, which dates from May 2004, and supported a restart.

Industry associations CompTIA, the Business Software Alliance and the European Information and Communications Technology Industry Association have expressed their approval of the EU Council's endorsement.

Adoption of the draft as the EU Council's Common Position means the directive will return to the Parliament for a second reading, with a limit of three months to decide on changes or a rejection. Changes are difficult to ratify in a second reading, requiring the support of over half the Parliament's members, regardless of attendance.

Austrian MEP Eva Lichtenberger said the process was on the verge of turning into a "power struggle" between Council, Commission and Parliament, rather than a consideration of the issues. "The text of 18 May no longer has a majority in its present form. The objections of the states have remained unconsidered until now," she said in the plenary meeting.

McCreevy acknowledged there was now substantial opposition to the current version of the directive. "I know a new wind is blowing on this. This is reflective of the position expressed in the Council and the Parliament, and the Commission will take account of this and respect this," he said.

Audio recordings of the plenary session were made available by several Web sites. Links to the recordings can be found on the site of the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII), here.

Topic: Government UK

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  • That's quite clever of Mr. McCreevy. By acknowledging this, he just pushes the directive to a second reading.

    He simply waves the fact that the directive was approved by the EC in an illegal manner. The request from Denmark and Portugal for a B-item has been denied.

    The approval in 1st reading should be declared wrong, and the EC should rethink their position on this.

    Mr McCreevy is very well aware of the difficulties to oppose the directive in second reading. For every amendment or change in the EC directive, the EP needs the absolute majority of 367 MEP's voting in favour.

    Don't let this puppet fool you !
    anonymous
  • My, my. How gracious of him. He conveniently neglects to mention that the European Parliament drastically rewrote this bill already at its FIRST reading, back in September 2003, but that all those amendments were thrown away.

    The only reason he's sounding so magnanimous now is because he thinks the hurdle of the Parliament's SECOND reading is impossibly high.
    anonymous
  • Creevy correctly recognises that the EP cannot be trusted to tinker with the proposed directive. The last time they did that, the EP produced an amended directive which was a real mess. That's why the Commission reasserted the proposal in its original form.

    The EP ministers clearly do not understand the issues at stake, or they would have voted for the proposal a long time ago.

    Creevy is, in effect saying "dont mess" with what you dont understand, and if you do mess with it, then we will kill the proposal in its entireity.

    While this doesnt sond very democratic, the solution to this is to elect EP ministers who take time to properly consider the laws which they pass, NOT to rant about the Commission, who have merely put forward a reasonable proposal for maintaining the status quo in Europe regarding software patents.
    anonymous
  • Creevy correctly recognises that the EP cannot be trusted to tinker with the proposed directive. The last time they did that, the EP produced an amended directive which was a real mess. That's why the Commission reasserted the proposal in its original form.

    The EP ministers clearly do not understand the issues at stake, or they would have voted for the proposal a long time ago.

    Creevy is, in effect saying "dont mess" with what you dont understand, and if you do mess with it, then we will kill the proposal in its entireity.

    While this doesnt sond very democratic, the solution to this is to elect EP ministers who take time to properly consider the laws which they pass, NOT to rant about the Commission, who have merely put forward a reasonable proposal for maintaining the status quo in Europe regarding software patents.
    anonymous
  • Here's another theory: Europe doesn't need software patents. Only people (indirectly) working for big software companies and patent offices claim that there's a need for software patents in Europe. That smells like self interest to me.

    The EC should have killed software patents long ago. Or at least re-examined it. That was requested several times but they choose to completely ignore that. Now it's up to the EP to kill software patents. One good reason for that would be that the software patent case in its current form and history shouldn't have been at the EP table at all.
    anonymous