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EU Amends Software Patent Directive (Suggestions) 160

Posted by Hemos
from the still-in-draft-form dept.
jopet writes "The EU has amended its draft proposal for a directive on how to handle patents on "computer-implemented inventions'. Several harsh points have been dropped and clarifications on what is patentable at all have been added. Good to see that protests and petitions can make a difference." YHBT. These are the suggestions from June.
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EU Amends Software Patent Directive (Suggestions)

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  • Good news! (Score:3, Funny)

    by TwistedSquare (650445) on Monday September 22, 2003 @08:01AM (#7023303) Homepage
    At last - some good news regarding patents appears on slashdot. A step in the right direction at least for the EU...
  • Too bad (Score:1, Funny)

    by Tirel (692085)
    that they only changed the wording a bit with the central point staying the same.

    Oh well.
    • Re:Too bad (Score:2, Informative)

      You didn't read it, did you?
      Article 4a excludes lots of shit that the USPTO sucked up without questioning.
      Article 6a now pretty much permits reverse engineering.

      This is a _massive_ improvement on what it was before.

    • Politicians aren't qualified to do this.
  • Well it's a start (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Kevin_ap (597233)
    but the patent system still need a radical revamp
    • Re:Well it's a start (Score:3, Informative)

      by haeger (85819)
      I got the news that the Finns have adopted the FFII's thoughts about this issue and will vote against SW-patents.
      Let's just hope that there are more people that will "get it" soon.

      I tried to include the letter but the lameness filter thought that there were too many whitespaces. *sigh*
      It's probably somewhere on FFII's homepage [ffii.org] anyway.

      .haeger
    • May the US system needs a revamp but do you know anything about the European?

      You may be thinking about patenting processes, ideas, DNA and other rubbish but the EU system isn't as abused or open to abuse as the US.

      How in frag did this get modded up to insightful?

      I would have thought the author would have at least needed to mention what in his opinion needs revamping.

      This is as insightful as 'Microsoft needs to be nice' and 'Hot chicks should love geeks'.
      • Re:Insightful? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by -brazil- (111867) on Monday September 22, 2003 @09:54AM (#7024115) Homepage
        You may be thinking about patenting processes, ideas, DNA and other rubbish but the EU system isn't as abused or open to abuse as the US.


        Actually, it is. Or at least trying very hard to be. The European Patent Office has been issuing [ffii.org] software patents for years, even though it isn't allowed to. They can't be enforced yet, but that will change if the directive passes and is implemented.


        Furthermore, the quality of the examination of patent application has decreased drastically [ffii.org] for some time now.

  • by Zocalo (252965) on Monday September 22, 2003 @08:07AM (#7023331) Homepage
    Great, they've removed some of the harsher language. Woohoo! Of course, the flip side of that is that MEPs that were erring over that language are now more likely to vote for it than before. We used to have a chance of a Software Patent free EU, but I doubt that is going to happen now.

    Still, at least it shows that MEPs *do* listen to their constituents, so there is some hope...

    • > Great, they've removed some of the harsher language.

      Yes, they changed fucking software patents to software patents .
    • There are _tons_ of software patents in the EU. It's just that their status have been rather undetermined, and filing for such a patent - while possible - has been a sort of a gamble, as nobody has known the future of their enforceability.

      Now, thanks to this directive, we do know. And I think it's a huge step forward, and in the right direction to boot.

      (Given that it passes, at least.)
      • There are _tons_ of software patents in the EU. It's just that their status have been rather undetermined, and filing for such a patent - while possible - has been a sort of a gamble, as nobody has known the future of their enforceability. Now, thanks to this directive, we do know.

        What do we know, are they enforceable or not?
        • by CrystalFalcon (233559) on Monday September 22, 2003 @09:11AM (#7023735) Homepage
          If you ask me, the response would be that stupid and trivial software patents aren't, algorithm and process patents aren't, computerized 14th century practices aren't, whereas those that are classic patents that just happens to involve a computer, like "method for improving output of sawmill involving computerized scales and sorting" or similar, will be.

          But IANAL. In any case, in my view of the world, this directive is a step forward from the current situation.

          (Especially given that everything interop is nonpatentable and noninfringing.)
    • by jez_f (605776) <jeremy@jeremyfrench.co.uk> on Monday September 22, 2003 @08:35AM (#7023461) Homepage
      Still, at least it shows that MEPs *do* listen to their constituents
      Once they recover from the shock of hearing from them that is.
  • by Xner (96363) on Monday September 22, 2003 @08:07AM (#7023332) Homepage
    (13c) Furthermore, an algorithm is inherently non-technical and therefore cannot constitute a technical invention. Nonetheless, a method involving the use of an algorithm might be patentable provided that the method is used to solve a technical problem. However, any patent granted for such a method would not monopolise the algorithm itself or its use in contexts not foreseen in the patent.
    On the surface it seems this amendment would stop patenting general purpose algorithms. On the other hand, a suitably lax definition of "technical problem" makes this all moot. "The LZW arithmetic coding algorithm" is not patentable. "Using the LZW algorithm for data comression" however is. You are still free to use it for other things (like what? Creative Garbling?), but we all the the Phyrricity of that victory.
    • Using the LZW algorithm for text analysis / author identification.
    • I think this means something different.

      Suppose there is an algorithm to obtain two primes from their multiplied form (not patentable). Now suppose someone found code that could do that x times faster. I guess that would be patentable under these terms.
      • Suppose there is an algorithm to obtain two primes from their multiplied form (not patentable). Now suppose someone found code that could do that x times faster. I guess that would be patentable under these terms.

        What you are suggesting is either a different algorithm (I presume that it would have a different "big O", therefore a different "recipe", therefore a different algorith) or a specific optimized implementation of the same algorithm. The latter may or may not be patentable, I have not studied the

    • On the surface it seems this amendment would stop patenting general purpose algorithms. On the other hand, a suitably lax definition of "technical problem" makes this all moot. "The LZW arithmetic coding algorithm" is not patentable. "Using the LZW algorithm for data comression" however is.

      Actually, I don't quite agree here: others amendment makes it clear that, in order for something to be "patentable", they must a) not be made only of the assembly of unpatentable items (art. 13a and 13b) and b) involve

    • In order to be patentable, inventions in general and computer-implemented inventions in particular must be susceptible of industrial application, new and involve an inventive step. In order to involve an inventive step, computer-implemented inventions should make a technical contribution to the state of the art.

      But wouldn't it fall foul of this? Using the LZW algorithm to compress data, isn't new and isn't inventive (data compression, been done for ages, but with different algorithms).

      Well you'd hope t

    • no LZW will ever be excluded from patentability because you cannot patent anything that is only code, algorithm or formula

      Article 4a

      Exclusions from patentability:

      A computer-implemented invention shall not be regarded as making a technical contribution merely because it involves the use of a computer, network or other programmable apparatus. Accordingly, inventions involving computer programs which implement business, mathematical or other methods and do not produce any technical effects beyond the normal
    • by Anonymous Coward
      This 13c alone might not be, but 6a seems to be enough to quote:

      6a: "Member States shall ensure that wherever the use of a patented technique is needed for the sole purpose of ensuring conversion of the conventions used in two different computer systems or network so as to allow communication and exchange of data content between them, such use is not considered to be a patent infringement"

      So it seems to be allowed to compress data using LZW if that is need to communicate to a system that assumes data is c
    • (13c) Furthermore, an algorithm is inherently non-technical and therefore cannot constitute a technical invention.

      anyone who believes an algorithm is "inherently" non-technical has obviously never tried to solve an engineering problem.

      take, as example, the viterbi algorithm, invented by dr. andrew viterbi one of the founders of qualcomm.

      most digital receivers do not attempt to "undo" the effects of the radio channel, rather digital receivers attempt to model the radio channel to estimate what would

      • According to the current amendment the above situation will be patentable as a part of the invention of a new type of digital radio receiever.

        You are still allowed to use the same algoritm in different circumstances though. Read the article.

      • Patents are intended to protect inventions that are specific and tangible. An algorithm is neither. It is not specific in that it can be implemented in several different ways and it is obviously not tangible since algorithm must be expressed in a program and run on hardware of some sort (DSP, general purpose computer, etc.). Even hand execution of an algorithm such as a minimal spanning tree algorithm, etc. still requires a person to perform the steps of the algorithm.

        Patenting the algorithm in your exa
      • A quick google search reveals that Viterbi most likely didn't patent his algorithm because he knew it wasn't new, having been described - in a more general form - by R. Bellman in his book "Dynamic Programming", published in 1957.

        As expected, since the algorithm applies to such a general class of data (data generated by a HMM process) I also found that the Viterbi algorithm is used in other fields such as molecular biology and speech recognition.

        It is dangerous and foolish to assert that some mathematica
      • "viterbi's algorithm is a clever way of "pruning" the number of paths so that the number of possible sequences is reduced to a manageable size. modern, low-cost, digital communications would not be possible without dr. viterbi's algorithm (which he, by the way, never patented.)"

        Uh, if you invented something like that, it would give you a massive competitive advantage in selling communications equipment for as long as you could keep it a trade secret. Looking at the cost of comms equipment, and at the cost
    • This is not interesting, this is HINAL (he is not a lawyer).

      Data compression is non technical .... so LZW is not patentable. Period.

      Now find a technical problem where LZW helps you, the solution to that problem might be patenable ... excluding others form using the SAME solution, for the SAME technical problem, WITH LZW.

      angel'o'sphere

  • Old draft from June (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 22, 2003 @08:12AM (#7023355)
    It says clearly that the draft is from 18th June 2003 in the top left corner. So how can this be news? Does *anybody* REALLY know/care if all those petitions against eu-it-patents are really still relevant? Does the right hand know what the left hand does? Do petition site owners know what place their petitions belong to? A MEP or (already!) the toilet? I don't know...
    • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Monday September 22, 2003 @10:08AM (#7024229)

      If you check the European Parliament site, you'll find there's a briefing dated 1 September 2003 that implies those amendments are still on track, acknowledging significant differences in opinion among MEPs and concern for the impact on SMEs. The information is still relevant, unless something dramatic has changed this month.

  • by perttu (525033) on Monday September 22, 2003 @08:13AM (#7023359)
    Article 6a

    Member States shall ensure that wherever the use of a patented technique is needed for the sole purpose of ensuring conversion of the conventions used in two different computer systems or network so as to allow communication and exchange of data content between them, such use is not considered to be a patent infringement
    • Member States shall ensure that wherever the use of a patented technique is needed for the sole purpose of ensuring conversion of the conventions used in two different computer systems or network so as to allow communication and exchange of data content between them, such use is not considered to be a patent infringement
      So it is legal to make, for example, a MSWord -> OOo -converter, even though it breaks some patents?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      No, No NO! You read this amendment wrong!

      The amendment you quote is deleted from the current draft, because was put in by mistake by Arlene Mcarthy and Co.

      Their amendment no goes like this:
      Article 6 a (new)

      ----
      Article 6a

      The rights conferred by patents granted for inventions within the scope of this Directive shall be without prejudice to acts permitted by way of exception under Directive 91/250/EEC on the legal protection of computer programs by copyright, in particular the acts specified and described
  • Holy Crap! (Score:5, Funny)

    by kurosawdust (654754) on Monday September 22, 2003 @08:14AM (#7023364)
    Linus and Alan Cox must've said something to light a fire under the EU's ass! Maybe they mentioned off-hand that they had been hanging out with ESR and were starting to take a "liking" to firearms... :P
    • I actually think that Linus's and Alan's letter was a bit lacking. As two important people in the field, I had expected them to be a bit more elaborate; they could have come up with some cases to back up their claims, for example. The EuroLinux petition [eurolinux.org] does a much better job at this.
      • Not to mention that Linus and Alan's letter was dated yesterday and no committee I know of can come up with a decision let alone ammendments to a document like this in under 24 hours.
    • That letter was just one small part of a huge lobbying campaign, primarily directed by the FFII.org. Good they wrote it, though.
    • I think it was that a lot of people wrote to their MEPs. I know i did.
  • Seems good. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by levell (538346) on Monday September 22, 2003 @08:14AM (#7023365) Homepage
    The changing seem pretty good e.g.from the justifications:

    Unlimited patent protection for software could make it illegal under patent law to engage in reverse engineering practices employed by software developers to achieve interoperability as currently permitted under the exceptions in the Software Copyright Directive. Therefore future EU-legislation related to software patents must include an explicit exception to patent rights in order to ensure that developers of software can continue to engage in the same acts to achieve interoperability under patent law as they are allowed to today within the limits of copyright law."

    and: "It is essential to monitor the impact of the patentability of computer-implemented inventions on small and medium-sized undertakings. "

    and: This recital makes it clear that it is not enough to specify the use of a computer (i.e. of technical means) to make a computer-implemented invention patentable. The invention as a whole must make a technical contribution. Ordinary data processing is not enough.

    and finally: It is essential to make it clear that this Directive is not revolutionary and will not change the status quo as regards the patentability of computer-implemented inventions. It will, however, make for legal certainty and set clear limits as to what is patentable in this area.

    As someone who wrote to their MEP, I'm pretty pleased with the changes, looks like we made a difference!

    • It is essential to monitor the impact of the patentability of computer-implemented inventions on small and medium-sized undertakings.

      That was there before as I recall, and it means bugger all. What promise does it make that you can quantify?
  • by sandman4k (153672) on Monday September 22, 2003 @08:16AM (#7023367)
    One of the most important amendments they added is article 4a:

    Exclusions from patentability:

    A computer-implemented invention shall not be regarded as making a technical contribution merely because it involves the use of a computer, network or other programmable apparatus. Accordingly, inventions involving computer programs which implement business, mathematical or other methods and do not produce any technical effects beyond the normal physical interactions between a program and the computer, network or other programmable apparatus in which it is run shall not be patentable


    • I'd say 13c is pretty important, as well:

      Furthermore, an algorithm is inherently non-technical and therefore cannot constitute a technical invention. Nonetheless, a method involving the use of an algorithm might be patentable provided that the method is used to solve a technical problem. However, any patent granted for such a method would not monopolise the algorithm itself or its use in contexts not foreseen in the patent.
    • A computer-implemented invention shall not be regarded as making a technical contribution merely because it involves the use of a computer, network or other programmable apparatus. Accordingly, inventions involving computer programs which implement business, mathematical or other methods and do not produce any technical effects beyond the normal physical interactions between a program and the computer, network or other programmable apparatus in which it is run shall not be patentable.

      These are weasel word
      • So any "technical effect" on the user, such as saving mouse clicks by using cookies when shopping online, for example, can be patented.

        Yes. It only covers you for performing data format conversions (like say decoding or encoding GIF images or any other patent encumbered format that you might need to use for interoperability's sake) or network protocols to allow two different types of system to communicate (eg CIFS or anything else MS reckons they have the right to stop you making your own implementati
      • "any "technical effect" on the user, such as saving mouse clicks by using cookies when shopping online, for example, can be patented"

        If you allow Amazon to store your credit-card for long enough that one-click ordering is useful, you're leaving yourself wide open to theft.

        Do you have any idea how many dictionary-attacks there are on your account password each day?

        I'd tend to suggest that if anyone with access to your Amazon cookie (and how many people shopping from work computer think their cookies are s
  • Linus and Alan write on Sunday, and the EU jumps on Monday. Good show, gentlemen!
    • by k98sven (324383)
      Linus and Alan write on Sunday, and the EU jumps on Monday. Good show, gentlemen!

      Given that the amendment is from June they're even faster than that!
    • Linus and Alan write on Sunday, and the EU jumps on Monday. Good show, gentlemen!

      I very much doubt that it was merely these two citizens who made the difference, considering all the work done by other activists. And as far as the timing is concerned, the whole thing was scheduled for the session taking place this week, so actually Linus and Alan wrote the day before... not the other way round!
  • Some points (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sufehmi (134793) <sufehmi@@@gmail...com> on Monday September 22, 2003 @08:18AM (#7023377) Homepage Journal
    • "...(online) petition can make a difference" ?
      I won't be too sure about that, not when many MEP doesn't (have time to) browse Internet regularly.
      (read Tom Chance's story about his lobbying efforts)

    • It STILL allows software to be patented.

    • Although with many restrictions, including declaring that business method/algorithm to be non-patentable.

    • BUT we have witnessed cases where corporations are able to twist interpretations, and challenge everyone who questioned to go to court.
      Small companies/individuals, which can not afford the cost, will simply admit defeat and comply to whatever the big corporations are demanding them to.

    • So personally, I think we still need to do a lot of real (not virtual) lobbying to ensure that software are not patentable.
      EU have no software-patent legislation now, and to my knowledge, there are no CLEAR cases that justifies this (feel free to enlighten me though)

    Just my 2 pence on the topic.
    • It is better. I 'mailed my MEPs after reading a story on /. a while ago. Got a pretty good response*. It is nice to see that some of my concerns have been addressed. If enough people write to them they will take notice.
      I mean if you are not going to be able to stop the drive for software patents it is better to have some sensible legislation for it.
      The changes here seem to be good for the most part. The emphasis on new technical solutions to problems rather than any old algorithm or method could work well
    • It STILL allows software to be patented.

      Hmmm, I'm not so sure. Article 4a says:

      A computer-implemented invention shall not be regarded as making a technical contribution merely because it involves the use of a computer, network or other programmable apparatus. Accordingly, inventions involving computer programs which implement business, mathematical or other methods and do not produce any technical effects beyond the normal physical interactions between a program and the computer, network or other progra

    • (online) petition: they presented the petition IRL to the MEP's

      Furthermore, there was a demonstration in front of the EU office in Brussels (I went there). About 500 people showed up, which is an extraordinary feat considering they anounced it only about 1 week in advance. There were people present from the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Germany and Denmark. And those are the people I talked to, so there may have been more nationalities. I say, this was pretty effective. Their goal was not to abando

    • "...(online) petition can make a difference" ? I won't be too sure about that, not when many MEP doesn't (have time to) browse Internet regularly. (read Tom Chance's story about his lobbying efforts)

      Then again, several MEPs have commented on the amount of petitioning. I wrote one of the MEPs myself, and the reply spoke of the tremendous resistance to the originally proposed directive as evidenced by all the mail she received. I do think the petitioninig has made a difference.

      It STILL allows software

  • good and bad (Score:2, Informative)

    by ZorroXXX (610877)
    At least they have the rationale behind patenting right:

    Justification
    The object of any law relating to patenting is not to ensure that patent-holders enjoy an advantage: the advantage granted to the patent-holder is only a means of encouraging the inventive process for the benefit of the society as whole. The advantages granted to the patent-holder must not work against this ultimate objective of the patent principle.

    Too bad that they fail to realise that for the vast majority og patents today th

  • Good Thing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Monday September 22, 2003 @08:20AM (#7023380) Homepage Journal
    I am happy to see that the EU listens to criticism. I am even more happy to see that they adapted the directive to make it abundantly clear that algorithms as such cannot be patented, and explicitly upheld the right to reverse engineer. This is a Good Thing.

    However, there is still cause for alarm. For example, what is meant by:
    In order to be patentable, a computer-implemented invention must be susceptible of industrial application and new and involve an inventive step. In order to involve an inventive step, a computer-implemented invention must make a technical contribution.


    There are quite some terms here that could be interpreted wide enough to still pose a threat. Moreover, this is just one proposal; it may change again in the future. Still, I sigh in relief.
    • Terms such as "inventive step" and "technical contribution" are actually very well defined in public EPO (european patent office) documents such as their "guidelines" and their case law and are, as such, not open to interpretation problems.

      Yes, they are boring legal documents (in three languages though, whoohoo) and as such not the most exciting read, but they do define what the EPO means by their various terms and are used by all parties, including interested third parties (who are welcome to comment or
  • A lot of the proposed amendments add new clauses that specifically limit software patenting. Probaly not enough limits to satisfy the "no software patents" crowd, but still... it sure would be nice if U.S. law took some of these principles a little more clearly to heart:

    (13a) However, the mere implementation of an otherwise unpatentable method on an apparatus such as a computer is not in itself sufficient to warrant a finding that a technical contribution is present. Accordingly, a computer-implemente

    • any patent granted for such a method would not monopolise the algorithm itself or its use in contexts not foreseen in the patent

      So far example, just write "used in an Operating System or Application program" and you have covered pretty much all contexts. What the heck, make a list of every possible specific context: database, spreadsheet, multimedia, engineering, whatever. Patent examiners have a history of being highly uncritical of obvious workarounds, letting a three page list of possible application
    • My favourite is amendment 16 and it's marvelous justification:

      Amendment 16
      Article 5

      Member States shall ensure that the forms of claims in respect of a computer-implemented invention may be made only to the effect that the invention is a product, that is a programmed computer, a programmed computer network or other programmed apparatus, or a technical production process controlled by such a computer, computer network or apparatus through the execution of software.

      Justification

      The present wording of A

  • Main Amendments (Score:4, Informative)

    by Marlor (643698) on Monday September 22, 2003 @08:22AM (#7023396)
    As far as I can see, here are the amendments that will have the most impact:

    (13a) However, the mere implementation of an otherwise unpatentable method on an apparatus such as a computer is not in itself sufficient to warrant a finding that a technical contribution is present. Accordingly, a computer-implemented business method or other method in which the only contribution to the state of the art is non-technical cannot constitute a patentable invention.

    (13b) If the contribution to the state of the art relates solely to unpatentable matter, there can be no patentable invention irrespective of how the matter is presented in the claims. For example, the requirement for technical contribution cannot be circumvented merely by specifying technical means in the patent claims.

    Article 4a - Exclusions from patentability:
    A computer-implemented invention shall not be regarded as making a technical contribution merely because it involves the use of a computer, network or other programmable apparatus. Accordingly, inventions involving computer programs which implement business, mathematical or other methods and do not produce any technical effects beyond the normal physical interactions between a program and the computer, network or other programmable apparatus in which it is run shall not be patentable.

    Article 6a
    Member States shall ensure that wherever the use of a patented technique is needed for the sole purpose of ensuring conversion of the conventions used in two different computer systems or network so as to allow communication and exchange of data content between them, such use is not considered to be a patent infringement.

    So, business methods and algorithms are not patentable, and normally unpatentable inventions cannot be patented just because they are implemented in a novel way.

    Also, an exemption has been added whereby you can't be charged with patent infringement if you are simply attempting to achieve interoperability with another program.

    Quite a few of the major issues with the legislation have been fixed. I am surprised... politicians have actually listened to the complaints, and not just made token changes.
    • Se our comments on this amendment, these are the amendments of McCarthy-JURI we protest against because they are fake limits [ffii.org]. McCarthy rejected all important amendments that could define the word "technical". Our comments on the 120 amendments that will be voted on wednesday see here [ffii.org].
  • Sorry to break the news to you, but it had nothing to do with these online protests and petitions. You see, a wandering hobo sold me a magic 'anti-patent legislation/anti-tiger/rain making' rock a couple days ago. I find this to be the more likley cause of not only these events, but the fact that the sun continues to come up, no tigers have appeared on my lawn, and that rain is forecasted in my area next week.
    • You are wrong. Individual Homepages being shut down might not have made a difference but European politicians already started to complain about the amount of letters and mails they got. Also the voices of quite a few small and medium sized businesses joined the choir. I really don't think all of this went by unheard.
  • Europe vs. U.S. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by rolux (99682)
    Europe's political stance towards the U.S. is shifting, from close alliance to more competition, if not confrontation.

    So Europeans start to notice that pushing Open Source, be it adopting Linux on the desktop, be it simply not passing laws that make OSS development impossible, is going to give them a competitive advantage in the long run.

    As a European, I would be as critical about "European Linux hegemony" as I am about "American Microsoft hegemony", but still... Issues like this one may sooner or later m
  • I got the following from the first few paras of "Explanation":
    The proposal under consideration is not revolutionary. The patenting of computer-implemented inventions is not new. Indeed, patents involving use of software have been applied for and granted since the earliest days of the European patent system . . .
    Is this really true ? Does this mean that the European patent system started in 1980s ? Or that software patents were in existence before that ?
  • by xdrudis (599934) on Monday September 22, 2003 @08:37AM (#7023472)

    The link goes ot the fairly bad [caliu.info] JURI report.


    As already said this is old news (June). But this was no good news, since the report endorsed the Commission software patent proposal, although it pretended they were not allowing software patents.


    This amendments and those tabled for plenary by political groups and >= 32 MEPs will be debated tommorrow and voted on wednesday. There are good enough amendments tabled, but the question is how many votes they will get. There are also motions for rejection by 4 political groups.

  • According to point 2 in the second para of "Explanatory Statements":
    Secondly, there is no disagreement, even in the open-source community, that the law of intellectual property should protect computer programs.
    There is no disagreement, in my mind, that this document is a bag of lies.
  • by TeXMaster (593524) on Monday September 22, 2003 @08:44AM (#7023502)
    An analysis of these amendments is available here [ffii.org]
  • The real test will be whether the patent that already has been granted to Amazon by the European Patent Office (EPO) will be excluded. It is a patent about sending gifts through a web site, e.g., the possibility of sending an item to an other address than where the bill goes.

    This is just one of the 30.000 software related patents that have been granted by the EPO but which are not enforced yet by any European law. If the new law is not going to invalidate some of those patents, then it is simply useless,

  • by Elektroschock (659467) on Monday September 22, 2003 @08:58AM (#7023619)
    This is the JURI proposal as introduced by rapporteur Arlene McCarthy and voted in JURI we fight against, an amendment to the original Business Software Aliance/EU Commission proposal.

    It is very common that patent protagonists lied to the general public and their collegues. Patent lawyers are like crackers. Cracker circumvent security, patent lawyers circumvent restrictions of patent law. A patent lawyer that cannot file a patent on software patents with the current "JURI amended"-directive proposal would not be worth his money.

    Here you find the amendments [ffii.org] that will be voted on and FFII's recommendation. FFII and the Eurolinux Alliance are very strong in Brussels and they grow stronger every day. Many parliamentarians listen to us and then the directive protagonists sell the directive as an fulfillment of our concerns, switching rhethorics, but not substance. About 200 people now focus on this issue as activists on our mailing lists. You can subscribe to patent@aful.org [aful.org] or take part in theOnline demonstration [wiki.ael.be] or become a member/supporter of FFII [ffii.org] or sign the Eurolinux Petition [noepatents.org]. You can support FFII by donations or even better by contributions. The European Parliament underestimated us. The patent lawyer slaves in Europarl came under strong pressure. We will be a mayor stakeholder in any future debate. The Green Party/EFA Groups impressed by our work even called for Open Source in the EU institutions [greens-efa.org]

    The Green/EFA group in the European Parliament has called on the EU, and in particular on the European Parliament, to support free/open-source software by introducing it into their IT systems. In a letter to the Secretary General of the Parliament, Julian Priestley, dated 9 September, the two Green/EFA Co-Presidents Monica Frassoni and Daniel Cohn-Bendit, argue that - as well as supporting Europe's software industry - switching to free and open source software would benefit the Parliament in terms of data continuity, technological independence and budgetary considerations. It would additionally take note of the Parliament's Echelon resolution, which recommended using non-proprietary software to increase technological security.
    I also would like to remind you that the US government lobbied against us [ffii.org], esp. against interoperability in the directive. The wrote a letter to EU parliamentarians. I think it is time to internationalize the debate and we need your help to get rid of EU, US, JP ecc. trivial software patents. Unfortunately OSI does not support anti-swpat action and very few US activists joined forces with us. An OSI representative (Russell Nelson) from the board of directors says they are "neutral" not really caring about Intellectual Property, and that's what is written in their FAQ.
  • Even though this is not at all perfect and what we all would like to have ultimately, this itself have debunked some myths.

    Myth #1 Only "big lobbyist" groups like RIAA and "big money" have the capacity to lobby effectively and change laws.

    Myth #2 Software programmers , especially FLOSS people can be only arm chair activists and not real activists.

    Myth #3 European politicians are completely sold out to bug business corporations and are there to protect their interst only.

    In short this one incident show
  • by sufehmi (134793) <sufehmi@@@gmail...com> on Monday September 22, 2003 @09:05AM (#7023683) Homepage Journal
    The amendments still allows software patent.

    Worst, it's indeed aimed to enable a party to patent the idea.
    (search for " opyright" in the document - don't forget to type the extra space in the beginning)

    I agree with various parties, including Linus, that copyright (protection for the expression / the actual code) alone is already enough for software developers.
    Ideas should never be patentable.

    I know that business method and algorithm are non-patentable by the amendment, but:

    [#] EU currently forbid software to be patented, and it's doing OK with numerous software houses, big and small alike, flourishing.

    [#] So there's lack of justifiable case for this legislation to exist at all.
    A software-patent legislation means making a small opening, which may lead to currently unseen consequences in the future.

    [#] This software-patent legislation should not exist at all.
    We should aim for its cancellation, not its amendment.

    But as revealed by a lobbyist (Ciaran?) some time ago in Slashdot, MEPs doesn't like the idea of rejecting a legislation proposal; since they view it as a waste of EU resources.
    So this definitely is not going to be easy. But I think we have to aim that high, for our own future.

    I've also written another comment that may be relevant here [slashdot.org].

    Anyway, I'd like to write/fax (not email/other virtual means of communication) to my representative in EU parliament. But so far I've failed to find out how.
    Can anyone enlighten me please ?

    Thanks.
    • This is the McCarthy-Juri amendment proposal we fight against. This is what we protest against.
    • ... beacuse I, not been European, have not taken interest in contacting politicians (which I wish I could do, but as a foreigner I think it is not kosher to get involved in local issues).

      Any way, phone calls to Brussels are cheap, Call the European Parliment and ask them for the name of the EMPs of your country, if possible with constituency names. Your local authority (council, village, whatever) must know this information as well.
  • by klokan (705060) on Monday September 22, 2003 @09:05AM (#7023690)
    This is the draft version of June 18, which is the one that was supposed to be voted on on 1st September. That vote has been postponed and new changes have been made. Let's wait the real thing, before commenting any further.
  • by Serious Simon (701084) on Monday September 22, 2003 @09:07AM (#7023708)
    Good to see that protests and petitions can make a difference

    Unfortunately, that remains to be seen.

    First of all, as far as I know a vote is necessary to determine if these amendments make it into the directive.

    Even so, most of these amendments are just polishing language. They do not really change the character of the directive proposal, in that it allows software patents (in contradiction to what it says in the explanatory part that it intends to clarify the existing European Patent Convention, and not to replace it. The EPC explicitly prohibits software patents).

    A big problem is the definition of the term "technical". It can easily be argued that the use of a certain algorithm e.g. to improve software performance is "technical" and can be patented even if the algorithm itself cannot be patented. Hopefully the following amendment will be included in the final directive:

    The use of natural forces to control physical effects beyond the digital representation of information belongs to a technical field. The processing, handling, and presentation of information do not belong to a technical field, even where technical devices are employed for such purposes.

    The following amendment:

    Member States shall ensure that wherever the use of a patented technique is needed for the sole purpose of ensuring conversion of the conventions used in two different computer systems or network so as to allow communication and exchange of data content between them, such use is not considered to be a patent infringement.

    looks promising, but it would still allow the abominable GIF patent as a conversion when it is not specifically used for data exchange between computer systems.

    We can always hope the MEPs will vote for a directive that prohibits patenting of any software (and the process of running such software) that is intended for general purpose computers, such as operating systems, office suites, data base software etc, etc, in line with the existing EPC. However, I am not too confident that this will happen...

  • I contacted all Swedish MEPs last time around, and urged a couple of my friends to do the same. I'm really glad to see that is made some difference, especially as I got a bit pessimistic seeing the stance that our Swedish Social Democratic Party took regarding this.
    The liberals, however, were on our side. I haven't had time to read through the whole thing, but it looks like the same conclusion that Canada came to.
    Go Europe!
  • I'm still very sceptic to these amendments. They require a technical invention to allow software to be patentable.

    Software in conjunction with a technical invention is called a device driver. So basically, this amendment still allows device drivers to be patentable.
  • LUG de Strasbourg

    Communique de presse
    Pour diffusion immediate.

    Manifestation contre les Brevets Logiciels le 23 septembre 2003

    Strasbourg, le 16 septembre 2003

    La proposition de directive concernant les brevets logiciels, qui sera
    soumise au Parlement Europeen durant la session du 23 septembre, donne lieu
    a une vague de protestations sur toute l'Europe.

    Le groupe Verts/ALE au Parlement europeen invite a une conference de presse
    avec des invites prestigieux le 17 septembre 2003 a Bruxelles.
    (http://www.greens-e
  • by ciaran_o_riordan (662132) on Monday September 22, 2003 @11:49AM (#7025151) Homepage
    Slashdot, you should be ashamed of yourself (more than usual).

    These are the amendments from the pro-patent camp, the people pushing the directive.

    The only good thing in there is the exclusion of Business Method patents. Everything else is just moving words around and generally strengthening the "software innovation = invention" stance. (inventions are patentable).

    The vote is on the 24th of this month. No amendments have been adopted yet, that's what the vote is for.

    Ciaran O'Riordan
  • Member States shall ensure that wherever the use of a patented technique is needed for the sole purpose of ensuring conversion of the conventions used in two different computer systems or network so as to allow communication and exchange of data content between them, such use is not considered to be a patent infringement.

    Sounds good.

  • by soboroff (91667) on Monday September 22, 2003 @12:59PM (#7025768)
    The industry already has a patent on the power of suggestion.

    "You are getting sleepier... you will believe dancing cleanroom guy when he says 2x GHz == 2x speed increase..."

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