European Parliament cries foul over patent directive

Lawyers have been asked to probe Denmark's failure to prevent the software patent directive being adopted by the European Council
Written by Matthew Broersma, Contributor on

The European Parliament (EP) and the Danish parliament are investigating whether the EU Council broke procedural rules by adopting the draft directive on software patents in the face of opposition from ministers. In an extraordinary meeting called on Monday night, the EP's Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) decided to ask the Luxembourg presidency for full documentation of the EU Council's meeting.

"It would have been much better if we had returned to a first reading," Lichtenberger told the JURI meeting. "After the Commission's restart denial and now the unclear decision in the Council, we are faced with procedural questions rather than having a constructive dialogue on the content of the dossier."

A Danish minister said he would ask the Danish parliament's lawyers to examine the validity of the EU Council's decision in the light of Danish Minister of Commerce Bendt Bendtsen's mandate from the Danish parliament to reopen debate. Bendtsen was directed by the Danish Parliament's Europe Council to transfer the text from an A-item, not requiring further discussion, to a B-item, which could have led to a renegotiation of the Common Position. However, the text was allowed to proceed as an A-item with only a formal statement attached expressing Denmark's reservations.

The procedural investigations are unlikely to make much difference to the progress of the draft directive, said Florian Mueller, who runs an anti-patent Web site. "In purely formal terms the Council just followed its usual procedures," he said. "The Danish minister may have acted against some Danish law or even the Danish constitution but that's a Danish issue, and not a software patent issue."

Opponents of the directive are urging MEPs to make substantial changes to the text or, preferably, to reject it, Mueller said.

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