EU vote 'widens loopholes' in software patent directive

EU vote 'widens loopholes' in software patent directive

Summary: European authorities have failed to close loopholes in legislation that will allow pure software to be patented.

TOPICS: Government UK

A key vote on the directive on the software patent directive has not only left loopholes in the legislation intact but may have even widened them, say campaigners

Amendments to the EU's directive on the patentability of computer-implemented inventions that would have prevented companies taking out pure software patents were largely thrown out by the European Parliament legal affairs committee (JURI) at a a key vote on Monday night.

The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII), a group campaigning against software patents, said the only amendments to the directive that were passed have symbolic value only: for instance, replacing the term 'computer-implemented invention' with 'computer-aided invention'.

One moderate signal against software patents that was adopted, said the FFII, was an amendment that equates 'technical' with 'applied natural science'. "The new definition for 'technical contribution' is a step in the right direction," said the group, "but contains a serious error in that it defines as everything which is new compared to the state of the art by definition as 'technical'.

Green MEPs Eva Lichtenberger and Monica Frassoni issued a statement saying that although all parties involved in the directive claim to be opposed to software patents, the legal uncertainty created by the directive will merely serve to allow them through.

"Though all political groups claim that they want to exclude 'pure' software patents from the directive. the pro-big-business majority in the committee succeeded in creating dangerous loopholes," said the two MEPs. "A definition of the difference between software and technique, for example, says that software can be considered to be the novel feature in an invention, and thus is patentable."

They said the current form of the directive will "give big business the opportunity — with the help of well-paid patent lawyers — to sew up the European market and throw out smaller players."

The proposals, which were drafted by JURI's own rapporteur, Michel Rocard, would have made it clear that innovations can only be patented if they use software to aid the performance of the invention and not if they comprise software only.

Rules on interoperability also came in for a roasting. The FFII, which cites these among the worst Council articles, said: "Patents on techniques required for interoperability are kept under RAND (Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory) conditions, so the line ensuring that actions for the purpose of interoperability are always allowed is dropped."

Eva Lichtenberger and Monica Frassoni said the definition is tailor-made to give companies "the possibility of earning extra-money on patent fees if someone else decides to construct interoperable technical devices".

Some of the proposed amendments revert to the changes introduced by the European Parliament in the first reading, which were later removedby the EU Council. This includes a change to make it clear that innovations in the field of data processing cannot be patented.

The directive will now be voted on by the full Parliament, in two weeks' time.

Topic: Government UK

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  • Some MEPs may genuinely believe the outrageous lies coming from the proponents of the directive, but it is becoming harder and harder to credit them with that much stupidity:

    Proponent: "This directive will not change what is or isn't patentable and will exclude 'pure' software and biz method patents".

    Opponent: "Duh! - it codifies current EPO practice, yes. Now please go look at the c. 40,000 'pure' software and biz method patents that practice has
    already generated".

    Maria Rossi (and many others): "The directive, combined with the case law, is an effective deletion of the Article 52 exclusions".

    EESC: "This directive is a piece of legal casuistry: the EU Parliament is being taken for a ride".

    Polish Government: "Is this true?"

    PPO et al: "Well.... yes."

    EICTA: "But we need patent protection for our inventions and if you don't give us a 20 year monopoly on every last detail of every aspect of the computable, and every trivial idea that enters our heads, the European economy will collapse."

    IBM: "Yeah man, we invest millions inventing stuff like this: ".

    Microsoft: "Yep - if it IsNot for software patents, for our remarkable intellectual achievements, we'd be doomed".

    Bessen,Maskin,Hunt,PWC,DB,...,Common Sense: "WTF are you guys smoking?!!"

    Is this only the first piece of EU legislation, drafted deliberately to deceive the legislators and the public, and proclaimed to achieve the exact opposite of what it will in fact achieve, that can we expect?
  • Leave anything of this directive intact and the big companies will have the chains they need to tie up anyone in court for many years to come as they see fit.

    The idea being not so much to actually be able to patent something but more to have whatever kind of legal means available to financially break or otherwise cripple whomever that doesn't play along (please sign this little agreement of ours or else).

    Fact is that if you're a low budgetted developer or company you don't have the financial means to defend yourself against any absurd claim that isn't thrown out of the courts (complete with heavy fines and all) the minute it arrives there. And fact is that there are already far too many absurd patents awarded just waiting for the EU blessing to become what they've been designed to be right from the start: legal weapons that only big firms could hope to defend against by means of mutual assured destruction.

    Indeed, MAD. And the only ones hoping to find a profit in this are the ones dealing in such legal weapons. The rest of the world will either be held hostage by such legal weapons or become a victim. Some choice.

    So please explain to me again how this MADness is going to help European economy or even make the Lisabon act a reality. Because being held hostage usually means that you're at the wrong end of the bargain. More a struggle for survival then.
  • I'm British and this is one of many reasons why I would have voted "No" in the constitution.

    To hell with these MEP mandarins, let Europe burn if this is the kind of future it has to offer!
  • Congratulations.

    In two weeks your choises will vanish. In a year you will only have one choice 'Microsoft'. One office ' MS office' and so on.

    Me and i know pleny of others whill shut down there business all because software patents. 100 000 jobs is affected direct.

    Strange i did think that EU's point was to increase the market value for us small companys and add value to the people. Well i guess EU have played out its role. It's time to shut it down.

    Some recent researched did find that in germany was 80% against software patents. In Sweden ~60%. And so does it look all over Europe. We don't want software patents. It destroys our business.

    So if it goes through anyway well then we are in deep trouble. We have then get our own dictature state ala chna. A place where what we think and beliive don't matter.

    I say only one thing. It's closing time.
  • Too few politicians are aware that this is a non-technical problem. Even if taken at face value, "harmonizing" laws allowing US patents on pure software in Europe would allow US portfolio companies to dominate every European business which uses a computer.