EC slipping software patents 'through backdoor'

The European Patent Office's practice of granting software patents could yet be ratified, despite the defeat of the software patent directive earlier this year

The European Commission is attempting to legalise software patents through the introduction of the EU Community Patent, according to an anti-patent campaigner.

The introduction of a Community Patent would allow inventors to obtain a single patent that is legally valid throughout the European Union, which would reduce the costs of filing and litigating a patent, according to the EC. It published a policy framework document on Wednesday advocating the need for a Community Patent.

"The absence of a Community Patent makes it difficult for many enterprises particularly SMEs to protect their inventions at a reasonable cost," said the EC in the document.

The Community Patent proposal document states that the "[European Patent] Office will apply to the Community patent the case law which it has developed for the European patent."

Florian Mueller, the founder of, warned that if the Community Patent law follows the current practice in the European Patent Office (EPO), which continues to grant software patents despite the European Parliament's decision to reject the directive in July, it would have the side effect of software patents being formally legalised.

"A Community Patent regulation that effectively ratifies the case law of the EPO and thereby legalises software patents would be a Trojan Horse. We've got to watch out, and we will," said Mueller on Thursday.