Three political groups in the European Parliament have warned that the
possibility of introducing software patents is re-emerging.
Last year, the Parliament derailed
a proposed directive that, critics argued, would have legitimized software
patents in Europe. On Thursday the PES, Greens/EFA and GUE/NGL parliamentary
groups said that a measure facing a parliamentary vote on Oct. 11 or 12 could
take up where the failed software patent directive left off.
Internal market commissioner Charlie McCreevy plans to deliver a speech next
week promoting the measure, called the European Patent Litigation Agreement.
In rebuttal, the three groups have filed a motion calling for "balance
between the interests of patent holders and the broader public interest in
innovation and competitive markets," a representative for the groups said
Thursday. The motion argues that the European Patent Litigation Agreement
weakens EU democracy, compromises judicial independence, increases litigation
costs and may expose small and midsize businesses "to greater risks."
The EPP-ED and ALDE parliamentary groups support the European Patent
Patents on software are formally
disallowed under the European patent system but are routinely granted by the
European patent office, according to critics. They are currently difficult to
enforce in many EU member states, something critics say would be changed by the
failed software patent directive, and now by the European Patent Litigation
Software patents are generally considered to add to the legal costs of large
enterprises and to create a hostile legal environment for smaller software
businesses and open-source projects. However, companies that already have large
portfolios of software patents are under pressure to increase the value of these
assets in Europe.
Proponents of the failed software patent directive and the European Patent
Litigation Agreement argue that the measures will not open the door to software
patent litigation and will allow smaller companies to more easily benefit from
the patent system.
The European Patent Litigation Agreement is "anachronistic" and is even
disliked by some large companies such as Nokia and GlaxoSmithKline, according to
Parliament Member Eva Lichtenberger, a Green Party representative from
Others said the measure would effectively take the software patent issue out
of the reach of the EU's democratic controls.
"We are all for improvements to the European patent system, but we must
continue the search for solutions within the framework of the EU," Maria Berger,
the PES's spokeswoman for legal affairs, and former French prime minister Michel
Rocard, said in a statement.
The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure also opposes
the European Patent Litigation Agreement. On Thursday, it criticized McCreevy
for failing to deliver clear answers about the measure to Parliament members.
"We have had enough of hidden agenda politics, it's time for the commissioner
to deliver some facts," Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure
President Pieter Hintjens said in a statement. European Patent Litigation
Agreement "means higher costs for small businesses, and increased litigation
risks. More U.S.-style litigation is not the solution. We just need a better patent office."