Patent opponents claim success

Patent opponents claim success

Summary: By withdrawing its support for the EU directive on the Patentability of Computer-Implemented Inventions, the Polish government may prevent software patenting being introduced in Europe

TOPICS: Government UK
Opponents of software patents claimed on Wednesday that Poland had delivered a serious blow to attempts to make software patentable in Europe.

The Polish government said on Tuesday that it could not support the controversial European directive on the Patentability of Computer-Implemented Inventions that was agreed by the EU Council in May this year.

"Because of numerous ambiguity and contradictions respecting the current directive project, Poland cannot support the text which was accepted in the vote of the Council on 18 May, 2004," said the Polish government in a statement.

It added that it would be prepared to back a directive that made it clear that "computer-implemented inventions" would be patentable, but that computer programs would not be.

Without the backing of the Polish government, it is likely that the directive no longer has enough support to be sent back from the Council to the EU Parliament. Crucially, the EU has just revised the number of votes that each member state can wield, and this move has given Poland enough influence to tip the balance. An overview of old and new voting weights in the EU is available here (pdf). In May, Poland decided not to abstain as it did not have enough votes to make a difference. By keeping quiet then, Poland was judged to have supported the directive.

Florian Mueller, a German software developer and campaigner against software patents, believes that the move will force the EU to rethink its position on software patenting.

"I was derided by some when I said on the first of this month that the new voting weights would, because of Poland's position, prevent the EU Council from formally ratifying its May 18th proposal," Mueller told ZDNet UK.

"Now that's a reality, and a great opportunity for the Council to properly define the scope of patentability and exclude software."

The Patentability of Computer-Implemented Inventions Directive has caused a storm of protest. Opponents claim that it will allow software to be patented in Europe, and that this will threaten developers and small businesses.

Those in favour of the directive, such as the European Information and Communication Technology Association (EICTA), insist that it would actually maintain the status quo, and help European companies to compete.

Sources at EICTA confirmed on Wednesday that the decision of the Polish government to withdraw its support for the directive would be a major set-back to its adoption.

"It's not been confirmed to us yet, so we can't say for certain. But we hope it's not the case," said one EICTA employee.

It's possible that another EU country which had previously opposed the directive, or abstained, could still change its position and back it, bringing in enough votes to carry the day in the Council, but even EICTA admitted on Wednesday that this was unlikely.

Topic: Government UK

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  • I love you Poland!
  • Hello,

    Please find here the opinion of a IT industry innovation leader in the U.S. The issue if we want to use the existing U.S. patent system should be to ask ourselves : what was the intention of the creators when they invented the patents system ? - and use the experience...

    Please contact me if you want a detailed opinion piece.

    Kind regards
    Laetitia Ughetto
    P.R. Parasoft Europe
    Abstract by Dr. Adam Kolawa

    "The US patent system is unique because the protection of intellectual property is engraved in the US Constitution. "
    (...)"When the patent law was designed, there was an implicit assumption that everyone applying for a patent had an idea and had built a product (or at least a prototype) based on that idea."
    (...)"However, over the years, people lost sight of the original intention of the patent law and the concept of patents got twisted."
    (...)"The US courts could technically invalidate patents for ideas that were not translated into actual products or prototypes. However, patents are rarely invalidated
  • I am an atheist and abhor Poland's popery but on this occasion I have to say:-
  • Yess!
    Don't forget this:
  • I can't believe the UK voted for it. My country's government disgusts me.
  • There are few moments I am proud of being a Polish citizen. This is one of these moments.
  • Thanks for Poland.