EU to throw patents in with the bath water

EU to throw patents in with the bath water

Summary: The EU software patent directive will be passed by the EU Council next week, at the same time as a law on bathing water quality

TOPICS: Government UK
The controversial EU directive that opponents fear will allow software patenting within Europe will be passed without vote or debate on Monday.

According to a Council agenda, the Computer Implemented Inventions Directive will be adopted during an Environment meeting, which is also due to deal with the issues of bathing water quality and batteries.

Scottish National Party MEP Ian Hudghton said he is unhappy that the EU Council is hastily pushing this directive through, given the concerns that have been raised.

"The apparent rush on this issue is unacceptable," said Hudghton. "The proposed software patents directive caused a great deal of controversy both in the European Parliament and the Council. Issues of this nature should not be fast-tracked onto the statute book."

Once the Council has adopted the directive, it will go back to the EU Parliament for a second reading. Parliament will then have three months in which to make its views known. Hudghton said it is likely that the proposal will evoke discussion in Parliament as a large number of MEPs are against the proposal.

"The Council should think again if they believe that they are going to get an easy ride through the Parliament during this directive's second reading," said Hudghton. "There is a sizeable proportion of MEPs who believe that the whole proposal is misconceived. The Council must recognise this and understand that the democratically elected representatives will not allow their views to be ignored."

Politicans from Holland, Germany, Poland and Austria have publicly spoken out against the directive.

If the directive is passed by the EU Parliament there is disagreement about what will happen next. Some have expressed concerns about "patent war" breaking out, where patents are used by large corporations to crush smaller competitors or open source projects. Linux creator Linus Torvalds has said that software patents constitute the single biggest threat to the future success of the open source operating system.

But these concerns are rejected by pro-patent organisation EICTA, which is supported by various large multinationals including IBM and HP. Peter Hayward, a director at the UK Patent Office (UKPO), also rejected this fear at a meeting at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) earlier this week. "We, the UK, have written some protection [into the directive] to make sure it can't open the floodgates," Hayward said. 

Steve Probert, a deputy director at the UKPO, claimed that it will be easier to contest software patents that shouldn't have been granted as the law will be clarified.

"We have conceded that patents have been granted that shouldn't have been," Probert told the DTI. "It's a heck of a lot easier to challenge patents if you have a law. If any have slipped through it should be easier to invalidate them using [the directive]."

Update: The EU directive will now be passed on Tuesday -- for more details please click here.

Topic: Government UK

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  • I hope we (EU) don't make the mistake of allowing the patent bill to get through, as stated by another blogger, if the EU is free from software paptenting then it will be a good model to compare with the US.

    Also we get the bonus of avoiding the current problems the US software industry is facing at the moment.
  • Steve Probert says:

    "It's a heck of a lot easier to challenge patents if you have a law. If any have slipped through it should be easier to invalidate them using [the directive]."

    I fail to see how it will become easier to invalidate them with a directive that explicitly legalises the logic according to which they were granted in the first place.
  • "Many of the people in the software industry have slightly got their blinkers on, and don't realise they are part of the larger industry that the patent system has to protect", said Peter Hayward of the UKPO.

    They used to tell us that patents would be good for us, we just didn't understand.

    Now apparently it is our duty to die for the greater good of the mobile phone manufacturers who 'need' software patents because...

    Lions led by donkeys, yet again.
  • What politicians fail to understand time and time again is that if they play the technical market game by rules lobbied together by that same technical market there'll be hell to pay later on. And it won't be the biggest lobbying voices from within the technical market that will be paying because they've already demonstrated to be able to play that game very well.

    Try to fit this into your brain: commercially motivated lobbying is done to make things happen their way (e.g.: securing their current profit margins and if possible increasing them). Oh my, what an eye opener no-one could have seen coming that was.

    Now, what is a sure way to ensure a very good profit margin? Kill the competition in whatever way possible perhaps? And turn that into law as well because politicians (law makers) are without a doubt the most slowly moving bunch of them all to fix bad things happening within the technical industry.

    Probably within months we'll see the first "oops, that wasn't suppose to happen" statements coming from various politicians. Perhaps inspiring them to initiate repair laws that'll take years to come in effect (frustrated at each step of the way by those same lobbying forces that started the whole mess in the first place) and most likely filled with compromises from top to bottom by that time.
  • IBM is so two-faced. On one hand they pretend to support open source software, on the other hand they lobby the EU to bring in a law which is one of the biggest threats to all open source projects.
  • Having a legal framework to declare a patent invalid wouldn't help me in the slightest, I'm afraid. The last time I checked, lawyers charged real money for their services, and more money than I could afford to see the case through to the end.

    The only ones who could afford to do this would be the large software companies.
  • I work for a small software vendor/developer. We sell open source software and closed source products. We also develop some of our own products. We sell software from a lot of single man companies. Most software patents are of such low low quality. I have been to Brussels there on behalf of the company I work for and explained to parlement members we don't need software patents and we will never have the time or the funding to get the patents.

    Now you have companies like Acacia research with there patents. When you read the claims that are for instance in the Acacia patents its just plain fraud!

    From there website:

  • After talking to Lord Sainsbury about this very issue, he assured me in the strongest possible terms that this was mearly a "cleaning up excersise". I'm guessing he used the same measurement that Chairman Blair did when describing what the EU constitution was... Needless to say I was unimpressed to the point where I wrote him off as a stooge.

    I give it 4 years before any EU software development house that hasn't been driven to the wall is owned by one of the big players from the US.

    The threat to OSS is real, whilst I do not believe that this will kill it, it will I suspect mortally wound it, perhaps to the extent that it never recovers. The future just went from being orange to a very very dark grey in the software industry.
  • UNBELIEVABLE.....that's "Democracy"
  • Fine! If Lord Sainsbury is so sure that the nightmare scenario won't happen then maybe he won't mind "indemnifying" Open Source against it?