EU Parliament forgives Council for adopting patent directive

The software patent directive is heading for a showdown in the European Parliament in July, now that any 'small irrelevant mistakes' committed by the EU Council have been ignored

The European Parliament (EP) agreed on Wednesday that the EU Council did not break procedural rules when it adopted the software patent directive earlier this month.

The EU Council adopted the draft software patent directive on 7 March, despite the European Parliament's (EP) request to restart work on the directive. The EP later decided to investigate whether the EU Council broke procedural rules in adopting the directive, which it is claimed will allow the widespread patenting of software in Europe.

After examining documents from the EU Council meeting, the Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) of the European Parliament decided on Wednesday that the Council had not broken any procedural rules. As the Council has expressed willingness to listen to the EP during the second reading, JURI decided to "not look for small irrelevant mistakes" in the Council's documents from the meeting, according to an EP spokesman.

The draft directive will now be passed to the European Parliament, which can reject or amend the proposal, for a second reading. The Council's common position will be formally announced in a plenary session in April and will then be discussed by the JURI committee. The deadline for amendments to the directive is likely to be 1 May, with the amendments discussed in the JURI meeting on 24 May, according to the spokesman.

JURI is likely to vote on the amendments on 6 June, and the amended directive will be voted on in a plenary session of the EP in July. For JURI's amendments to be agreed by the EP will require 366 MEPs to vote for the changes — this represents a majority of the 731 MEPs and is irrespective of absences and abstentions, according to the spokesman.

If the directive had been restarted, as was requested by the Parliament, it would have been easier for changes to be agreed as the first reading requires only a simple majority of votes cast.

"That's why the Parliament wanted a restart — it has more power in the first reading," said the spokesman.

The European Commission rejected the EP's request to rewrite the directive last month, a decision that was met with fury by anti-patent campaigners who accused the EC of acting undemocratically.