The Patent Office has been inundated with information and opinions submitted during the consultation period of the European Commission (EC) directive on software patenting, which closes today.
A source close to the situation says the UK Patent Office is furious with the Commission for imposing such a strict deadline. It is understood that the Patent Office will not be in a position to produce complete results until the middle of January.
Delegates will meet next Thursday to discuss the results. However, the Patent Office has an enormous collection of responses to wade through and will only be in a position to present a "general feel" of its findings when it has processed all correspondence.
According to Simon Stokes, a partner at Tarlo Lyons legal firm, the situation is confusing. He explained organisations can patent software in Europe, but it must have a 'technical effect' - an improvement on a technical level rather than the automation of a business process.
In a desperate drive to bring clarity to the situation as quickly as possible, the EC has only allowed for what one legal expert describes as "little consultation".
Stokes said: "For such a change we should have a decent consultation period."
The consultation period only started at the beginning of November.
Eva Pascoe, MD at Zoom.co.uk, said: "The trouble is that with the dot-com fall-out everyone is busy firefighting, that's why they haven't been able to respond to the consultation.
"However, they should be concerned - it is a massive risk to them - but with everything else going on not everyone gets it."
Justin Watts of ebusiness legal firm Bristows, said: "It is a rush - which is probably not brilliant - but if it is not rushed through, the EC risks not having the proposals considered before the number of countries in the European Patent Convention grows significantly in 2002. At this point, obtaining the unanimity required for making these changes will become much harder."