European Parliament blocks patent liberalisation

European Parliament blocks patent liberalisation

Summary: Campaigners have blocked a proposal that they claim would have opened the floodgates to patent lawsuits across Europe

TOPICS: Government UK

The European Parliament on Wednesday voted against a proposal that would have allowed companies to defend nationally granted patents throughout the EU region.

The proposal, which was included in a resolution concerning innovation policy, called for the "mutual recognition of patent laws in Member States". This would have meant that patents granted by the national patent office of any EU country would have been enforceable in all EU member states.

Florian Mueller, the founder of, said the proposal would have resulted in more litigation and more software patents. The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) was also concerned about its implications.

"The mutual recognition of national patents would result in a flood of patent suits all over Europe, lower-quality standards, and ever more software patents, among other things, because patent applicants would shop around to find patent offices that are most willing to grant patents which would then be valid in the entire EU," said the FFII in a statement on Wednesday.

European software patents are difficult to enforce largely because of the differences between national patent laws, according to campaigners.

The proposal was defeated after two parliamentary groups, the EPP-ED and ALDE, asked for a split vote on the passages covering patent liberalisation. Although the Parliament passed the majority of the resolution, it voted against the specific mutual recognition section.

Both Mueller and the FFII had called on MEPs to vote against the proposal.

Rufus Pollock, the director of FFII UK, said that the Parliament's vote was a "great result", but said it was vital that people participate in the European Commission's ongoing consultation on patent policy, to reduce the risk of further detrimental changes to the patent system.

"There will be many more and bigger challenges ahead as the Commission prepares new proposals concerning patent policy. It's very important that many companies and individuals write to the Commission before the deadline on 31 March," he said.

The FFII and Mueller have published information on their Web sites to help people respond to the consultation.

Some companies, including large IT companies such as IBM and SAP, argue that a more consistent patent system is needed in the EU to protect the rights of inventors. Campaigners such as Mueller and the FFII, on the other hand, say that the reforms proposed so far have been mainly aimed at making software patents easier to enforce in Europe.

They argue that software patents mainly benefit large companies, while leaving smaller firms and open-source projects open to attack. In the US, which has a liberal policy on software patents, even large companies such as Research In Motion, Microsoft and, ironically, patent leader IBM, have begun supporting reforms.

Topic: Government UK

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  • One must be very poorly informed today to even consider software patents at the EU level.

    The only way to put a stop to all that lobbying, conflict of interests and the rest is to ban software patents all together for the next 50 years or so.

    Sure, innovation, R&D investments and such must be protected. But they are better protected by booting out all that self interest backed up by huge funds then allowing even the smallest of foot between the door.

    There's also something else to consider. Software patents will only work if the entire world follows the same rules. That won't happen so what then? How much R&D budget is really needed to come up with low costing solutions that can match themselves with the far more sponsored commercial solutions out there? So how much protection is really needed? And for what? Inflated self interest? Laywer fees? That's burocratic. Not technical innovation. Such innovation is so fast moving forward that being the first is a tremendous advantage in itself. To try to copycat that would take longer and cost more then simply going into a legal agreement with the inventor. So perhaps we need to concentrate on how fast we can get good ideas to spread worldwide and making it difficult to stop that spread by those who happen to have more power at that point in time.

    We life in a world were a technical software innovation can be put to use in minutes. So non-burocratic technical innovation can take over the world very quickly indeed. Yet we believe that if we go burocratic on that we would actually improve on things?

    Patent countries against non-patent countries?
    Guess who will have the fastest moving and most flexible market. The rest will be tied down in legal and political discussions.

    A few years ago this whole patent thing could have been ended with a single word: NO.
    We didn't and mostly what we have today is endless discussions based mostly on FUD. Little facts, plenty of emotions, not very innovative.