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EU Software Patents Dead Again 325

Posted by timothy
from the happy-news dept.
Joe Blakesley writes "Heise is reporting (in German) that the JURI (legal division of the European Parliament who tend to be more pro-EPO) have voted to invoke Rule 55 for a total restart of the software patents process (going back through the anti-swpat Parliament with a totally new directive) following attempts by the EC to get their directive through by the back door. This is an important victory for democracy and it means we can no longer say that the JURI is out. Also see Groklaw's story."
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EU Software Patents Dead Again

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  • Rule 55 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hey! (33014) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @03:42AM (#11559965) Homepage Journal
    It must be like catch 22: if enough private money is spent on a public issue, it's not for the public's benefit.
    • by wombatmobile (623057) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @04:13AM (#11560073)

      Well, Rule 55 [eu.int] is the parliamentary equivalent of rebooting.

      So, you could say the current status of the patent initiative is like BSOD.

      But who knows what will happen next time around?

    • If all private money was spent on one "public issue" we would defintely be going against the public interest. Where is the catch 22 unless you are assuming the "public issue" is for sale?
    • by byolinux (535260) * on Thursday February 03, 2005 @06:07AM (#11560399) Journal
      Software patent guideline: European Union parliament requires restart of the procedure

      The co-ordinators of the responsible legal committee of the European Union parliament approximately set the switches this evening in the procedure around the planned guideline over the patenting barness of " computer-implemented inventions" seriously to restart. "we decided practically unanimously with only two abstentions that our president explained at the commission a Rekonsultation requested", to SPE Koordinatorin Maria Berger after the approximately three-hour meeting opposite heise on-line. As soon as parliament president Josep Borrell Fontelles follows that urge of the legal committee, the commission is requested to be concerned again with the guideline. Concretely the commission is to send their original guideline suggestion either again to the European Union parliament or submit a new.

      Thus the legislation way was walked on completely from the front. The delegates support themselves by article 55 of the agenda of the European parliament. It plans a renewed fundamental concerning of the delegates with a guideline suggestion among other things, if the kind of the treated problem changes "crucially" or the parliament assembles again after definition of its point of view by elections. Appropriate requests had placed a group of 61 delegates as well as the Greens.

      The legal committee had looked for Charlie McCreevy in the afternoon first together with domestic market commissioner for ways out of the muddled situation. The Irish had called recently the verabschiedung of the legislation still pending "key measure" for the stimulation of innovation and competition . With the meeting McCreevy spoke now of a "delicate affair". The of Luxembourg council presidency received in the meantime written promises for the Abnicken of the position of the Minister committee without further discussion during one of the next meetings. Naturally however a "constructional dialogue" is necessary between advice and parliament for the reaching of an agreement. In the question, whether the commission desire after a new start will follow, it did not want to commit itself. It stressed that "all options were open". At the same time he said the fact that the guideline was actually important since to a "considerable juridical insecurity" leads everything else.

      The European Union advice is guessed/advised with its in May negotiated position into a dead end, since this limits the patenting barness of computer programs in the opinion of countries such as Poland not sufficiently . The government of the new entry country prevented therefore the Abnicken of the point of view of the Minister committee already several times . In addition, Denmark blocked past week the official verabschiedung of the advice position again .

      Hartmut Pilch, executive committee of the promotion association for a free Informationelle infrastructure ( FFII ), made opposite heise on-line clear that he is for a revision of the advice position by the Minister committee. If the advice should not change its attitude however, the way for a restart, hit now, is the secondarybest solution. The Austrian Berger is pleased in particular that "we brought back movement into the thing. We must come in the long run to a legislation, which is closer at the point of view of the parliament than at the advice position ". The European Union delegates had in September 2004 in 1. Reading a guideline version submitted, which would put a latch plate for software patents forward . Also for their land woman, the Green EH Lichtenberger, is the current "courageous" initiative of the committee "a good beginning, but not yet the lucky end in the question of patenting of software."

      The parliament correspondent for the guideline, the French socialist and ex Prime Minister Michel Rocard, expressed themselves however against a restart. He fears that the changes from the 1. Reading so to be lost could come and in particular a guideline still more harmful for the middle class or the procedure completely adjust could. Also Piia Noora Kauppi, Schattenberichterstatterin for the people's party, had first doubts about a renewed 1. Reading expressed. In the long run it gave in however, since there is in its opinion momentarily no other way out.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 03, 2005 @03:47AM (#11559986)
    This only shows that the U$ is on their way to fasicst/communist copyright rule inposed by the dictatorship of MPAA/RIAA.

    It shows that Freewill and Free thinking is still present in the EU and has not been polluted by the deranged thoughts of MPAA/RIAA and others with similar agenda.

    I it obvious that soon the U$A will be something similar to the world in Orwells 1984.
    And im not blaming Bu$h, but the coperate infiltrators in the senate.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      "And im not blaming Bu$h, but the coperate infiltrators in the senate."

      I wish Mavis Bacon would infiltrate your post and clean it the fuck up.
    • by Suchetha (609968) <suchetha.gmail@com> on Thursday February 03, 2005 @04:12AM (#11560071) Homepage Journal
      And im not blaming Bu$h, but the coperate infiltrators in the senate.
      Actually the greatest blame lies elsewhere..

      The American public are more impressed by a slick PR campaign than by where their pols stand on the issues.. they are willing to vote someone in on name recognition [ca.gov] than on a real knowlege of who that person is and what they stand for.. when you need megabucks to pay for a campaign that you may win or lose, then you have to whore yourself out to the highest bidder, and this means the megacorps.. (in my country it's a tad different, they get in and then plunder the treasury.. but the slick campaign remains)

      so its our fault. after all, no one is FORCING us to vote those idiots in. if people were willing to vote responsibly, then there would be no need for slick campaigns, only a willingness to actually work for the good of the people.. until then power to the sheeple!!!

      Suchetha
      • Sorry, dude, but I live in California and Schwarzenegger is the best governer ever as far as I'm concerned. He's the only politician, with the possible exception of John McCain, willing to stand up to special interests and not steal more of the people's money with which to wipe his ass, the favorite pasttime of Democrats in the California Legislature. It's the people who vote for things like borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars to waste when the state is ALREADY in a budget crisis who worry me.
      • A couple of points:

        To vote responsibly, you have to be aware of, and have accurate information about what the real issues are. Then you have to think critically about the issues before casting your ballot. It turns out that our schools aren't doing their job of training people to think for themselves and analyze an argument. IMHO this is the most important job of a teacher. Before we castigate the parents, be aware that they came from the same system.

        The other point is that the power mongers do their da
  • by saphena (322272) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @03:49AM (#11559996) Homepage
    This will give the EU a much needed opportunity to consider the issues properly with the benefit of major campaigning forces on BOTH sides of the arguments instead of just the big boys arguing for unlimited patentability.
    • by dilvie (713915) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @04:05AM (#11560044) Homepage Journal
      Let's hope so. In any case, no victory will be permanent. People will still want to protect their "intellectual property" -- this fight is far from over.
      • Indeed, in fact it's just restarting :)
      • Indeed, this fight is not won before the whole and aberrant concept of "intellectual property" is history. Only when any person propagating this concept is recognized for what they really are, namely enemies of civilization and humanity, and those are put in jail instead of the ones fighting this evil, I shall have peace.
      • People will still want to protect their "intellectual property" -- this fight is far from over.

        And why shouldn't they?

        The term "intellectual property" is rather misleading: there are superficial similarities between patents, copyright and trademarks, to give the most common examples, but their significance is rather different.

        In particular, while software patents are one of those ideas that sounded promising but has been shown not to work well in practice, copyright has been quite the opposite. This

    • This will give the EU a much needed opportunity to consider the issues properly with the benefit of major campaigning forces on BOTH sides of the arguments instead of just the big boys arguing for unlimited patentability.
      Um, the big boys arguing for unlimited patentability are one side of this argument, even though they would deny that this is their true intention.
  • Reassuring (Score:3, Informative)

    by Pan T. Hose (707794) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @03:53AM (#11560006) Homepage Journal
    This is very reassuring to see that software patents nightmare will most likely never happen in European Union where politicians seem to be concerned more with public good than with lobbying, which probably will lead to their abolishment in the United States as well, because American programmers will never agree to be left behind the whole Western civilization even facing quite different priorities of politicians on their side of the pond. This is a great time to sign this letter [thankpoland.info] and start sending snail mail letters to these addresses [fsf.org]. If you know of any other place where people can easily voice their opinion on those issues in a way that actual politicians will see them, please post them here. This is a truly great news, no matter if you are a free software believer, an open source pragmatist, or a proprietary zealot. In the end, every programmer has to face the same problems with software patents. It's wonderful to see a bright future and it's quote amazing to see honest politicians acting in the best interest of Their People.
    • by CrystalFalcon (233559) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @04:09AM (#11560053) Homepage
      Votes.

      I jumped party line the last European Parliament election to hand pick a MEP that was solidly behind FFII's line. And I let all of the involved people, including the MEP and my previous MEP, know it.

      Did they care? Did they respond? Yes, they responded to my e-mail. That was a sign in itself.

      Politicians ultimately need votes. Regardless of business interests, compromises, if they don't get votes they're out of a job. Let them know what counts. It works.
      • I jumped party line the last European Parliament election to hand pick a MEP that was solidly behind FFII's line.
        I can completely understand. It is very important these days for our elected officials to be gamers. That they are also old school RPG gamers, and fans of square, would sure sway my vote.

        Now if only we could find a politician who plays GTA...
    • Re:Reassuring (Score:5, Informative)

      by nickos (91443) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @04:46AM (#11560169)
      Hey, don't just thank Poland. Denmark deserves [theregister.co.uk] some of the praise too!
    • Between this and IBM & Sun starting to open up their software patents, this could eventually lead to a change in the US.

      For now IBM, Sun, Microsoft, Apple, etc, still have to keep patenting every new line of code, in case the law doesn't turn around (because if they don't, someone else will, and might start causing trouble. Patent things to cover their asses, then release the patents because its all ridiculous (unless, of course, they figure out a way to charge $10/month on one. But i digress).

      I hop
      • Re:Reassuring (Score:5, Insightful)

        by sbryant (93075) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @06:42AM (#11560493)

        Well, I wouldn't hold your breath. It's certainly not impossible that the US patent system will be changed, but I don't see it happenning in the near future.

        We'll have to first wait and see how the whole thing in Europe turns out. It's still possible that they say that any software algorithms can be patented. I think that is now quite unlikely. Another possibility is that they say no software patents at all - my favourite, but we may not see it happen. The third option would be that they come up with some definition of what is patentable, and we see some restricted form of software patents.

        I think that third option is what a lot of them will be aiming for, but I think they will have a hard time getting enough people to agree on what should be patentable, in which case I think we're more likely to end up with no software patents at all, as a number of countries are very much against a free-for-all - Poland and Denmark have been mentioned already; the German parliament agreed that SW patents are not good (that's all 4 major parties, and they almost never all agree with each other), and there may be hope for the UK too. Certainly, the UK patent office is very aware of the problems that patent abuse can cause, as reported here [bbc.co.uk], and maybe, just maybe, the governement will listen.

        If the EU actually does rule against software patents, it will be a very compelling reason for IT companies to do development in the EU rather than in the US, and that is something that may trigger the US to review their system, but that will all take time.

        Patents are supposed to encourage people to invent and disclose, so that everyone can benefit. If that is not happenning, then patents are not working and the goal is not being reached. Many are using patents as a form of protectionism, and this abuse is something that the EU now has a chance to address. I really hope they do.

        -- Steve

        • the UK patent office is very aware of the problems that patent abuse can cause

          The UKPO speaks with a forked tongue.

          They have a history [zdnet.co.uk] of saying things that mean multiple things, depending on the listener's point of view, and then campaigning strongly behind closed doors to allow unfettered patentability.

          The most glaring example of this is their use of "status quo" which one might think meant that they were trying to preserve the current ban on software patents, whereas they actually want to preserve th
    • Re:Reassuring (Score:5, Interesting)

      by prodangle (552537) <`matheson' `at' `gmail.com'> on Thursday February 03, 2005 @05:11AM (#11560238) Homepage Journal
      no matter if you are a free software believer, an open source pragmatist, or a proprietary zealot


      What if you just like to use what you regard as the best and most economical tool for the job?

      I strongly disagree with Software patents, but I wouldn't put myself into any of your 3 categories - not everyone bases their software choices on political views.


      Sorry to be a pedant :)

      • What if you just like to use what you regard as the best and most economical tool for the job?

        Because on the job you need to sistematically analyse whther your company has:

        * The freedom to work (no expiring licenses, etc...)

        * The freedom to grow (just copy this software to any employee, no extra cost to grow but the hardware)

        * Vendor independence (if you can hire someone to study and adapt software to your needs, or do it yourself!)

        * Maintenance cost dillution (if you distribute the cost of maintaining

  • by Arend (170998) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @03:56AM (#11560011) Homepage
    http://kwiki.ffii.org/Restart050202En

    Brussels, 2 February 2005 - The Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament (JURI) has decided with a large majority to ask the Commission for a renewed referral of the software patents directive. With only two or three votes against and one abstention, the resolution had overwhelming support from the committee, and all-party backing.

    The decision is a powerful statement from MEPs that the current Council text, and the logjam of concern it has caused, is simply not a sustainable way forward. It is now up to the Commission to submit a new, or the same, proposal to the Parliament. Parliament will then hold a new first reading, this time under the guidance of Michel Rocard MEP as rapporteur.

    The European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Charlie McCreevy, had in the morning assured the JURI Committee that the Council would finally adopt its beleaguered Common Position text. He announced that "the Luxembourg Presidency has now received written assurances concerning the re-instatement of this issue as an A point at a forthcoming Council". Given that A points are to be adopted without discussion, this left no possibilities for renewed negotiations in the Council. Apparently, the Members of Parliament concluded that a restart was the best solution.

    Former french prime minister Michel Rocard MEP, PES (FR/PS), gave a very strong speech at the meeting with the Commissioner. Apart from noting several "inelegancies" by the Commission, such as not taking into account any of the Parliament's substantive amendments in its recommendation to the Council, he also took issue with the Dutch and German governments ignoring their respective parliaments and the attempted ratifications of the political (dis)agreement at several fishery Council meetings. He furthermore mentioned that at a meeting with the Polish government, the industry players had confirmed that the Council text allowed pure software patents, and he wondered how the Commission could continue claiming the reverse. He was also curious about how the Commission's perfectly tautological definition of the concept "technical" could help in any way to distinguish between what is patentable and what is not.

    Despite his own abstention when voting on the restart later that day, the fact that almost everyone else supported it is probably his personal achievement.

    The Commissioner made clear that "any agreement will need to strike a fair balance between different interests", and that "a constructive dialogue between the Council and Parliament will be vital for an agreement". He does have the option to deny a new first reading. But given the strength of feeling in the Parliament and the concerns of so many member states in the Council, the Parliament request looks like the best way to achieve a clean way forward for this Directive that everyone has been looking for.
    Comments

    Jonas Maebe, board member of FFII:

    The Commissioner can jumpstart the constructive dialogue by submitting
    a new and more balanced proposal to the European Parliament this time. By
    taking into account the countless new facts that have surfaced since the
    start of this procedure in 2002, the Commission has a great opportunity to
    reinvigorate the Lisbon strategy.

    Dieter Van Uytvanck, president FFII Belgium:

    We owe this victory for democracy to the members of the European
    parliament. Today they have shown once again that they really care
    about the concerns of the European citizens. And of course we would
    like to thank those as well. I'm sure that without their impressive
    support for an innovative climate that is freed of software patents,
    this step would not have been possible.

    André Rebentisch, FFII Media

    The Commissioner was not prepared to take blame for Bolkestein's policy.
    Charlie McCreevy is a very straightforward Irish politician.
    But unfortunately he adopted a pathetic phrase style. Today at JURI
    he 'read poems' while JURI members
    • There's fuckall 'straightforward' about McCreevy and he's the last person who should be involved in an issue like this. He and party colleagues are far too easily swayed by large MNCs at the expense of the small indigenous development outfits in Europe.
      • Well, it was nice to get rid of McCreevy from the Irish government - but I hope he doesn't cause too much trouble at a European level.

        He is typical Fianna Fáil, more concerned with helping business pals than looking after the public.

        I mean really - his Minister of Finance period was so heartless (Rich-poor gap growing hugely despite the country rolling in dosh) that after he left the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) declared himself a Socialist just to placate the public. (Quite an absurd statement, there'
  • by startling (717697) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @04:01AM (#11560031)

    In other news, the Gates Foundation was reported as saying that Poland had been evaluated as an unsuitable recipient for any of Bill's money.
  • It will come (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wintaki (848851) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @04:03AM (#11560034)
    Maybe I'm just too cynical, but sooner or later , they will get their way and software patents will come. Don't get me wrong, I am absolutely against them. But they will never rest until they get them passed, and even if the opposition is strong now, sooner or later, someone will come into office who will work to pass the patents and then retire to a nice comfy spot on the board of some tech companies.
    • Re:It will come (Score:5, Informative)

      by Sarastrobert (800232) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @05:07AM (#11560225)
      Actually, we already have Software patents in the EU. The layers have been using a small loophole where a computer application is said to be patentable if it has a "technical effect", meaning a physical effect. The technical effect has been quite loosly interpreted to the point where it,for example, can be a technical effect if you compress data before before transmitting if across a (physical) line, since it will be transferred faster.

      With this kind of definition of a technical effect almost anything becomes patentable. It has not been tested in court though. But we do already have thousands of software patents approved in the EU. This would just have put an official approval on the whole buisness.

      Not having it go through will still leave all software patents where they are, but it will also give us a better chance to fight them off.
      • Re:It will come (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        "With this kind of definition of a technical effect almost anything becomes patentable. It has not been tested in court though. But we do already have thousands of software patents approved in the EU."

        But according to the national laws in many member countries, software is not patentable (at all). If the current directive would pass, every country would have to change their national laws to accommodate the directive. That is why the patent lobby want it so much, because in the current situation, their pate
    • Re:It will come (Score:3, Insightful)

      by EzInKy (115248)
      Maybe I'm just too cynical, but sooner or later , they will get their way and software patents will come.
      I refuse to believe that Europeans would be so stupid as to make a law that would require sending money to the US for something as trivial as selling an item with one mouse click.
    • Maybe I'm just too cynical

      Yes you are. The tide is really turning in the EU, there is scarcely an MEP in the European Parliament that isn't familiar with this issue, and even those MEPs that supported the initial pro-Patent directive now seem to understand what the problems with it were.

      Of course, we can't let our guard down, but we have them on the run, and we have taught our politicians that there are two sides to the debate over whether Intellectual Property should be expanded.

    • those who have themselves bribed in such ways retire to a not so comfy spot inside prison.

      just as for high treason, we need the most severe threat of punishment for those that use their power to corrupt democracy.
  • Not dead! (Score:5, Informative)

    by pesc (147035) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @04:14AM (#11560074)
    No, European software patents are not dead yet. But we managed to close the backdoor so it won't be introduced that way.

    The patent lobby has not given up. The process will now be restarted and they will try with any means possible to get their way. Fortunately, awareness is rising. Politicians begin to understand that not only big companies and patent lawyers are interested in whether software can be patented. And some of the FUD and lies from the patent lobby is beginning to be exposed. So there is hope for the future.

    But the battle is not over yet! PLEASE write your politician and support ffii.org. Now you can make a difference.
    • Re:Not dead! (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The later they attempt to pass it, the better for us: as open source is becoming more popular, many entities (governments) will become dependent on it, hopefully some day govts will get enough dependent to not let to pass any legislation which could harm FOSS. When your infrastructure works mainly on open source and does not cause many technical problems (virii etc.) or costs (forced upgrades, expensive support from foreign supplier etc.), you are free to alter it any way you want, all money spent on suppor
  • by Christian Engstrom (633834) <[es.teitraptarip ... tsgne.naitsirhc]> on Thursday February 03, 2005 @04:15AM (#11560082) Homepage
    InfoWorld has a quite informative article [infoworld.com] about the restart in English.

    This is great news!

  • Thanks so much, (Score:4, Interesting)

    by avocade (608333) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @04:33AM (#11560134) Homepage
    everyone in the EU (and around the world, I'm sure) who helped in driving this decision through. I was a bit worried at the end, but this shows that democracy can still work.

    I sent a handful of faxes in myself to some of the more critical MEP's, and some emails to the Swedish government explaining my position. While that was the most I could do with my resources and time, it would certainly be interesting to see how far other people went to further this cause :)
    • Re:Thanks so much, (Score:4, Interesting)

      by jez99 (840185) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @05:43AM (#11560324)
      Well, I kept tuned txs to the FFII, and emailed with very polite and personalized texts to both the two spanish members of the JUI (One was against patent, the other was in favor of it). I also posted in the official web page. That was not too much, but, you see, I had this thinking yesterday. Why is it so important what 'media' says? (newspaper and so on), and why does politicians care about it?? It is not because of the 'power' of the media. They don't have any by themselves. The can't lobby, they don't use to have much money, neither contacts. Their power is based on the people who read them, because they can change their mind. And why politicians are afraid people change it's mind? becaouse that people may not vote them, or may talk to another about it, etc ... So, If you post a politician, you're getting over the whole 'media-in-the-middle' proccess. One always expect the media to cover one's concerns, in the hope that that can change it. Anyway, if one just post it straight to the politician, he may get the same result .... Whoa! sorry for this amount of 'nothing'.
  • great victory (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cg0def (845906) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @04:43AM (#11560165)
    Patents are necessary however not in the state and form that they are now. I personally belive that there should be a databas of who invented what however, there is no way that a coumpany should be allowed to charge anybody for using technology that the first company owns just the pattent for. Sure if you make your money off of something that you invented then you would like other companies that use the same technology to pay you. However, if you no longer use a pattent or you are a company that goes arround and buys patents for profit this sux. I think that companies whose treat patents as assets should be illegal. Pattents exist to protect a company's means of income and not to create ways of legasing mafia like behavior.

    I really hope that one day patents become just a registry of who invented what when ... a true open source society.
    • I think non-transferable patents would be an excellent idea. Software is more suited to copyright.

      Why does everyone have to pay homage to the creator. If it's for private use then why the hell do I have to pay somebody? If I put together a lawn mower from parts I find at the tip and donate it to charity I'm a hero. Why can't I create something for my own amusement from software/music/dvd's and share it (or gasp the original) with everyone on the planet who is "wired"?

      What would be fair and reasonable
    • Re:great victory (Score:3, Insightful)

      by stygianguest (828258)
      In our economy we often see specialisation in companies. We see this in a lot of area's, for example the music industry where we've got different parties supplying different components of the final product. eg music + nice face + studio artists + marketing + legal 'protection' ... -> britney spears.

      Although I don't like most music that's been produced this way, I don't oppose to the method (apart from the extreme copyright protection). It's the consumers 'fault' that they buy it.

      I think the same thing
    • Re:great victory (Score:5, Interesting)

      by pesc (147035) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @06:26AM (#11560459)
      Pattents exist to protect a company's means of income

      I disagree.

      Patents are monopolies handed out by the government. The original reason we allow the monopolies is that we want the technology behind the patent to be exposed rather than kept secret. This way, the public gets a benefit from handing out the monopoly, the knowledge in technology can advance.

      Since I'm pro free market, I'm very much against monopolies. I would rather have the companies compete. The company that can produce the best products win, in an open competition. We should not pass laws to protect the income of companies. If they can't earn it, too bad! That said, I can tolerate patents if they are truly inventive. And helps progress. Tolerate!

      However, when it comes to software we need to understand that it is not technological but mathematical. Software is written, not manufactured. And since it is written we have copyright protection for it. You protect cars and machinery by patents, not copyright. You protect films, books and software by copyrights, not patents. With software patents, the author of software texts is denied his right to publish his independently created works.
  • by alexwcovington (855979) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @04:49AM (#11560176) Journal
    Perhaps that's being a tad overly cute about it, but the situation is fairly grim. If Europe can't hold out on software patents, then the entire developed world is pretty much SOL as far as technology innovation goes. As far as I'm concerned, software should be just like the halcyon days of pure research science, when discoveries were freely available to anyone who wanted to apply themselves. It's from that sort of spirit that you truly make progress. If it's all about the Benjamins, you just put enough work in so that you don't lose your job. Just like Linus Torvalds alludes to.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 03, 2005 @05:16AM (#11560254)
    It seems like the EU is starting to assume powers similar to that of a federal government, but it doesn't seem quite yet to be treated as if it has the responsibilities of one. That is, the EU reps don't seem to behave as if they're directly responsible to the people, and the people don't seem to treat the EU elections as if they're electing people to govern them. Maybe this mindset needs to change.

    I mean, I'm not in Europe but from everything I've heard the governments, the EU reps and the people of Europe all approach the EU as if it is an arbitration body between governments, yet it's now making decisions-- such as the patentability or nonpatentability of software-- which very much directly effect the people of Europe on a day to day basis and should not be made by a body which does not unambiguously feel it is directly responsible to the people.

    Things in the EU are still taking shape of course but, well, that just means that this is the best time to address these things. I don't think it's a bad thing for the EU to centralize power but if it's done, it needs to be done in a very deliberate and careful way.

    Am I making sense?
    • It's exactly because the EU is NOT assuming powers similar to that of a federal government that this is happening. The EU is in most respects closer to a confederation. That is, the member states are in most cases sovereign, and there is no concept of federal law that is inherently above national law except where the member states have themselves granted EU superiority via treaties that the states can bow out of whenever they want.

      This is a situation similar to the situation in the US between the Articles

      • by misterpies (632880) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @08:24AM (#11560842)

        by and large what you say is right, but you're wrong that the EU cannot legislate directly into national law. (and yes, I am a European lawyer)

        The EU can issue three types of legislation: regulations, decisions and directives. The first two are "directly effective", meaning that they automatically become part of national law. A directive is meant to be implemented by the national parliament before it takes effect in national law, but if the national parliament fails to do so, then the directive itself can take direct effect and be enforced through the national courts.

        You're also wrong in saying that "there is nothing in principle stopping a national parliament from refusing to accept a new EU law". One of the fundamental concepts of EU law is its supremacy over national law.

        The legislative process in the EU is basically that the commission (the executive) has to propose legislation, which can then be adopted by the Council (the legislature). The Parliament is also part of the legislature but has fairly limited powers - hence why it has taken so long for its repeated rejection of the software patent directive to get anywhere.

    • The EU has had federal-like powers right from its start - that was the whole point of the exercise. If you think of it a an arbitration body between governments, then you're very mistaken. EU law governs everything from employment rights to environmental protection. The EU has an executive, a legislature and a supreme court with the power to overrule national governments.

      In effect, it's very similar to the US federal government, with the member nations being like US states - except that EU members still re
    • ...the EU reps don't seem to behave as if they're directly responsible to the people, and the people don't seem to treat the EU elections as if they're electing people to govern them.

      The European Parlement, i.e. our elected representatives, voted against software patents. It is the national governments (who are also our elected representatives; non of the EU countries are dictatorships) who try to push this through.

      Maybe this mindset needs to change.

      Maybe people should know what they are talking abo

  • by thogard (43403) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @05:23AM (#11560275) Homepage
    'E's dead, that's what's wrong with it!
    No, no, 'e's uh,...he's resting.
    Look, matey, I know a dead patent law when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now.
    No no he's not dead, he's, he's restin'!
  • In italian (Score:3, Informative)

    by Vajsvarana (238818) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @06:18AM (#11560429)
    A nice page in italian on the JURI decision by an italian member of JURI itself (Monica Frassoni, verdi):

    http://www.monicafrassoni.it/detail.php?id=771#

  • by pandrijeczko (588093) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @06:26AM (#11560460)
    It strikes me that one of the major barriers to Open Source software being rolled out into business enterprises is the fact that there's nobody to provide an indemnity against software patent legal cases against OSS - just look at how Microsoft have promised to protect their customers if and when it comes to patent issues with their software. (Sure, the reality will probably be a whole lot different but MS have made the promise which no doubt counts for a lot in the eyes of their customers.)

    The delaying of EU software patents surely means that, at least in Europe, OSS gets a fair "crack of the whip" again and gets to compete on an equal footing with commercial software and without the customer fears of patent litigations. This can only be a good thing because hopefully in a few years time, when the subject of EU software patents rises again, OSS will be far more prevalent in commercial enterprises and, even better, government and educational networks.

    And no, this isn't just a "ditch Windows, install Linux" rant either - even if this means Firefox competes better with IE on the Windows desktop, or OpenOffice.org with MS Office, then that can only be a good thing for all concerned because OSS then gets evaluated for it's suitability for specific tasks, not because of the risk of legal issues in using it.

    • there's nobody to provide an indemnity against software patent legal cases against OSS - just look at how Microsoft have promised to protect their customers if and when it comes to patent issues with their software

      Umm...I thought Redhat said they would?
  • I hope is that the sofware industry won't be able to lobby the Parliament (or rather the Kommsion) into simply resubmitting the directive without real changes.
    Or even the worst case scenario: making it even more pro-patent than it already is.
    But I guess the good side is that patents are stopped for now

    (And just so can mod this Offtopic:
    2005-02-02 21:31:30 EU Softwarepatents on-hold (for now) (Index,Patents) (rejected))
  • by atcurtis (191512) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @08:14AM (#11560809) Homepage Journal

    Here is a thought experiment:

    1. Company X is based in a country which doesn't have laws regarding sw patents. They develop a product Q which has some novel software concepts. They cannot patent it because their patent office won't move on sw patents.

    2. Company Y is based in a country which has laws permitting sw patents. They see product Q and think that some concept in it is pretty cool and so they patent such a concept. Brain dead examiner rubber-stamps patent.

    3. Company X can no longer sell product Q in any region where sw patents are recognised (due to Berne convention)

    The only real solution to this is to have some countries to have a law which explicitly makes sw patents invalid AND is a signatory of the Berne convention. Then they can be safe to exercise their innovation.

    Right now, it is exceedingly unfair to permit software patents because the USA has such a headstart in that arena, anyone coming afterwards is automatically disadvantaged.

    The major benefit of a law which renders sw patents dead is that other signatories of the Berne convention would eventually have to follow suit or risk some kind of international trade war... and as trigger-happy some people are, I think invading Belgium would not help the pro-sw-patents argument much.

    • Why not just always allow prior art from other countries?

      Why wouldn't company Q patent it in company Y's country in the first place?

    • Company Y is based in a country which has laws permitting sw patents. They see product Q and think that some concept in it is pretty cool and so they patent such a concept. Brain dead examiner rubber-stamps patent.

      I don't doubt that they would get their patent rubber-stamped (that's not hard at all). But wouldn't the patent be invalid and easily defeated, because of prior art (i.e. product Q) - especially if someone tries to charge company X for product Q, which is older than the patent itself?
    • by Halo1 (136547) <jonas.maebe@elis ... .be minus author> on Thursday February 03, 2005 @08:49AM (#11560968) Homepage
      Whether or not you can patent something has nothing to do where the "invention" was made. Company X can perfectly patents it's stuff in company Y's home country (i.e., European countries can perfectly get and enforce US software patents, regardless of what the outcome of this directive will be).
    • 2. Company Y is based in a country which has laws permitting sw patents. They see product Q and think that some concept in it is pretty cool and so they patent such a concept. Brain dead examiner rubber-stamps patent.

      "Braindead" is the key point here. Patents cannot be granted if there's any known prior art anywhere. I believe it also means that such braindead patents are not enforceable.

      By the way, does anyone here remember the original intent of patents? It was to encourage the disclosure of inventi

    • Does the Berne Convention really deal with patents? I understood it to deal with copyright, and a look at the text [wipo.int] shows it to be about "authors" and "literary and artistic works".
  • Beat the "dead horse"....some more.....not quite finish... ... yet .. ....hold on......just a sec....I'm not quite done yet..(gasp, wheeze, wheeze).......

    And (wheeze) they must'a (gasp wheeze) call these career lobbyists...fat cats ... no, wait... Re-Animators!

    'caused "it died, twice."
  • by cicho (45472) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @10:12AM (#11561540) Homepage
    Yesterday (Wednesday) Polish government backed off and decided it will no longer try to oppose/delay the patent proceedings. This comes after recent heavy corporate lobbing by the likes of Microsoft and Siemens. (I used to like Siemens.)

    As I understand it, aby hope now lies in the EU Parliament.

    Details (in Polish) here:
    http://wiadomosci.gazeta.pl/wiadomosci/1,53 600,252 6374.html

  • by Lonath (249354) * on Thursday February 03, 2005 @11:03AM (#11562086)
    I know that's pessimistic, but I'm thinking about this in terms of those cop shows where the cop at the end of the show is cruising around and has some words of wisdom. They always say something like this:

    Cop: You know, being a criminal doesn't pay. They have to get lucky every time, and all we have to do is get lucky once.

    This is why the SWpat people will win eventually, because the !SWpat people have to get lucky every time in stopping this, and the SWpat people only have to get lucky once and sneak it through the system in some obfuscated form.
  • by jbn-o (555068) <mail@digitalcitizen.info> on Thursday February 03, 2005 @03:29PM (#11565212) Homepage
    To all those who give up on software freedom (like a recent discussion I participated in on GNOME-marketing concerning an upcoming live multimedia CD which may include MP3s and a non-free (for some) MP3 player program), take a look at what the anti-software-patents organizers have accomplished so far. This didn't come about because they used the circular logic so many use to justify pushing aside what they know to be best.

    I applaud those who organized this effort for having the courage of their convictions to pursue better policy. You offer us who are burdened with software patents something to aspire to.
  • by N3wsByt3 (758224) <Newsbyte@nOspAM.freenethelp.org> on Thursday February 03, 2005 @04:15PM (#11565740) Homepage Journal
    An influential European Parliamentary committee voted yesterday to ask the Commission to send the proposed Directive on the patentability of computer-implemented inventions back to Parliament for a first reading.

    Simon Gentry, founder of the pro-patent Campaign for Creativity, wrote a letter to his supporters today: "The assault on patents - based on a deliberate distortion of the facts - has, in effect, won."

    Gentry added that he is considering winding up the lobbying group. "Set against the apparently limitless resources - both human and financial - of the anti-patent lobby, the cause seems lost."

    The current draft has changed radically since the Parliament first considered it, while the membership of the Parliament and the European Union itself has also altered. These are reasons for a restart, say many MEPs.

    The draft Directive, often known as the Software Patents Directive, has been on the verge of approval by the Council of Ministers since May, when European Trade Ministers rejected amendments made to the draft by the European Parliament. Some MEPs expressed fears that the wording of the Directive risks bringing to Europe the more liberal regime of software and business method patenting that exists in the US.

    Progress on the draft Directive then stalled, as political manoeuvring kept the proposals off the Council agenda, where it was due to be included as an "A" item, being one that is voted through without discussion.

    The Polish Government has been influential in delaying the vote, taking advantage of new voting weights that came into force on 1st November. Denmark also appears to have disrupted progress of the draft in the run up to its Parliamentary elections on 8th February.

    Once successfully rubber-stamped, the Directive is due to be sent back to the European Parliament for a second reading. But some MEPs argued that the legislative progress should be restarted instead, allowing the enlarged Parliament to give full consideration to the issues, instead of rushing it through in the three-month timescale that a second reading allows.

    The issue came to a head yesterday in a meeting of the Parliament's legal affairs committee (JURI).

    In what has been described as a heated debate, Charlie McCreevy, European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, explained that the Council of Ministers had now reached consensus and that the draft was due to be re-instated as an A point at a forthcoming Council meeting.

    Committee members reacted to the news by voting by 19 votes to two in support of a motion to ask the Commission to send the proposals back to the Parliament for a first reading, effectively restarting the process.

    The Commission does not have to comply with the request. It may instead continue with the existing process, in the knowledge that once the Directive is put to the Parliament for a second reading, consensus is unlikely to be achieved.

    According to UK Labour MEP Arlene McCarthy, it is more likely that the whole process will now be delayed for up to six months, in order to assess the impact of the legislation. "Under the circumstances this is the best solution," she said.

    Austrian JURI member Eva Lichtenberger said: "The Legal Affairs Committee's initiative is a good beginning, but does not yet offer a happy ending to the software patents story."

    She added: "Today's courageous decision introduces the possibility of a better solution. I am very happy that we now have an opportunity to prevent software patenting and to obtain a better directive that will benefit the whole of the industry. We may now be able to stop market giants - aided by an American-style patenting law - from forcing innovators and SMEs out of the market."

    But Simon Gentry of the Campaign for Creativity believes that the Committee vote "will open the way to a deluge of anti-IP amendments that will probably result in the final stripping away of IP protection for the IT sector."

    He continued: "At the very least we

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