Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
Patents Your Rights Online

EU Says No To Software Patents 525

Moggie68 writes "European parliament has . struck down the proposal for a directive that would have brought US-style software patents into EU." Here's another story on the decision.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

EU Says No To Software Patents

Comments Filter:
  • EU Press Release (Score:5, Informative)

    by Pablo El Vagabundo ( 775863 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @09:00AM (#12993282)

    Here is a link to the offical EU press Release: EP//TEXT+PRESS+DN-20050705-1+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN&L=EN &LEVEL=2&NAV=X&LSTDOC=N#SECTION1 []

    Some really good comments in there from some clued in and angry MEPs...

  • From the article:

    "You don't patent a mathematical formula, for software is merely a connection of a mathematical formula," said Michel Rocard, the former French Prime Minister who was in charge of steering the parliament debate.

    Rocard, a deputy for the Socialist group, said patents worth tens of billions of dollars (euros) were potentially at stake and, in terms of impact on businesses, the bill was the most important piece of legislation the assembly has ever dealt with.

    The patent system seems to work best when patents cover things. It seems to cause real damage when it covers such things as mathematical knowledge and software. Broader than just those two, though, is the application of patents to "systems" wherein the thing being patented is just a step of instructions. It is a far cry from a tangible item to a way to do something.

    Some 178 amendments to the bill were tabled by lawmakers before the vote. In the end parliament decided to vote down the law, fearing the amendments would dilute it and make it an inadequate compromise.

    "It was a mess. Better no directive than a bad directive," said Tony Robinson, spokesman for the Socialists.

    Unfortunately, that seems to mean that the topic may come up again, only in a more streamlined and possibly more palatable bill. It is nice that OSS advocates are crying foul against the patent system, but the real change will come when private businesses understand the threat posed by an all-encompassing patent system.
  • Videos of the vote (Score:5, Informative)

    by stere0 ( 526823 ) <slashdotmail.stereo@lu> on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @09:02AM (#12993317) Homepage (CoralCache) [] has the videos and transcripts.
  • Next: the US (Score:5, Informative)

    by sofar ( 317980 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @09:03AM (#12993324) Homepage

    NOW is the time for everyone in the USA to start protesting against the same practices in the US. No software patents anywhere!

    (Of course, the US will lose significant competition against european companies who will be much more at liberty to innovate... this hurts YOUR business)
  • by AigariusDebian ( 721386 ) <aigarius@debian.ERDOSorg minus math_god> on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @09:09AM (#12993372) Homepage
    That is ONLY because FFII put it up like that and only because FFII alerted MEPs about the importance of this directive in the first place.
    If it weren't for FFII, this directive would be accepted two years ago. I've followed this debate from the first proposal of the Commision: if Hartmut Pilch wouldn't have been there - nobody would have even noticed or understood the implications of this directive.
    FFII has proven to be more mature and professional then the professional EU lobbies, that have been doing this for decades. I am so glad to be on this team and to see this historical victory.
  • Re:Victory! (Score:5, Informative)

    by q.kontinuum ( 676242 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @09:15AM (#12993433)
    648 votes to 14. That's how utterly wrong this bill was.

    You got it badly wrong here. The voting shows, that it is an important issue and both sides try to play on safety. Both sides voted against the bill.

    The anti-patent side because they feard the bill without proposed amendmends.

    The pro-patent side because they feard the amendments.

    What this voting shows, is two things:
    1. It is an important issue, we need a clear bill on this issue!

    2. The amendmends would have turned the bill upside down, and since the amendments do nothing but drawing a firm line between software and not software it is very clear, that the pro-patent site wanted software-patents, also they always claimed they want to exclude software from patent law.

  • FFII press release (Score:5, Informative)

    by infolib ( 618234 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @09:20AM (#12993481)
    The FFII server is horribly overloaded at the moment, so here's their press release. (Slightly edited for anti-lameness) You can get info on todays vote at [] once it gets back up.

    From jmaebe Wed Jul 6 15:15:16 2005
    Date: Wed, 06 Jul 2005 13:03:50 +0200
    From: Jonas Maebe
    To: news
    Subject: [ffii] European Parliament says no to software patents, yes to innovation

    **European Parliament says no to software patents, yes to innovation**

    Strasbourg, 6 July 2005 -- The European Parliament today decided by a large majority to reject the software patents directive. This rejection was the logical answer to the Commission's refusal to restart the legislative process in February and the Council's unwillingness to engage in any kind of dialogue with the Parliament. The FFII congratulates the European Parliament on its clear "no" to bad legislative proposals and procedures.

    This is a great victory for those who have campaigned to ensure that European innovation and competitiveness is protected from the threat of software and business process patents. It marks the end of this attempt by the European Commission to codify into law the US-style practice of the European Patent Office. We believe that the Parliament's work, in particular the 21 compromise amendments, provides a good basis on which future legislative projects can build.

    Rejection provides breathing space for new initiatives based on all the knowledge gained during the last five years. All institutions are now fully aware of the concerns of all stakeholders. However, the fact that the Council Common Position needs 21 amendments in order to be transformed into a coherent piece of legislation indicates that the text is simply not ready to enter the Conciliation between Parliament, Commission and Council. We hope the Commission and Council will at least respond to the concerns raised by Parliament the next time, in order to avoid this sort of backlash in the future.

    Jonas Maebe, FFII Board Member, comments on the outcome of today's vote:

    "This result clearly shows that thorough analysis, genuinely concerned citizens and factual information have more impact than free ice-cream, boatloads of hired lobbyists and outsourcing threats. I hope this turn of events can give people new faith in the European decision making process. I also hope that it will encourage the Council and Commission to model after the European Parliament in terms of transparency and the ability of stakeholders to participate in the decision-making process irrespective of their size."

    The FFII wishes to thank all those people who have taken the time to contact their representatives. We also thank the numerous volunteers who have so generously given their time and energy. This is your victory as well as the Parliament's.

    Background Information

    Free ice-cream for patentability []

    Software patent lobbyists add boats to their arsenal 297.html []

    Pictures of the boating []

    Permanent link to this press release []

    Contact Information

    Hartmut Pilch and Holger Blasum
    FFII Munich Office

    Rufus Pollock

    Jonas Maebe

    Dieter Van Uytvanck

    About FFII -- []

    The Foundation fo
  • by Khali ( 526578 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @09:21AM (#12993486) Homepage
    And let's not forget Jerzy Buzek (Polish MEP, ex-Prime minister), Michel Rocard (French MEP, ex-Prime minister) and Andrew Duff (English MEP) for their excellent, intelligent, patient work. Thanks, gentlemen, we wouldn't have won without your invaluable help. Thank you so much!
  • Not quite - bis (Score:5, Informative)

    by ( 410908 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @09:22AM (#12993493) Journal
    Also, if the law was rejected, it is because a few ppl had a large bunch of amendments ready that would have "denatured" (in the view of large software companies) the adventage software patent could have given them...

    see The Register article here :
    "According to the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure, conservative MEP Klaus-Heiner Lehne is trying to establish a majority of MEPs to vote for a rejection of the Council's "Common Position", even before any amendments are discussed.

    The FFII says it is no coincidence that supporters of the Common Position, like Lehne, are now calling for the directive to be dropped. It claims that parliament is close to establishing a majority of MEPs in support of the amendments tabled by Michel Rocard. The amendments would put limits on patentability, it argues, and so the directive should only be rejected if the 367 votes needed to pass the changes cannot be found." ective/ []

    So in effects the cancelling of the law is not so much a victory as a move by the opponents to pospone the problem until they have a better chance of passing it under their own terms, US style....

    Also I totally agree with your view on the grey area actual patents are in, but article 52 ar52.html [] of patent bureau clearly says that purely software patent are not to be, and that should be enough to cancel the existing ones....

    We just need someone to enforce the existing rules....which is an other problem altogether...
  • by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @09:23AM (#12993500)
    It's good news, but I wouldn't count on the enemies of technology giving up. Software patents will be introduced in the EU parliament again and again, until they get passed.

    Except that the Commission said in advance of today's vote that they wouldn't be attempting to push this through any further if it was voted down. In the absence of that, I believe there is a minimum 3 year gap before the same issue can be considered again.

  • Re: Not quite (Score:2, Informative)

    by andersa ( 687550 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @09:25AM (#12993521)

    Actually the European Patent Convention []states in article 52:

    (2) The following in particular shall not be regarded as inventions within the meaning of paragraph 1:
    (c) schemes, rules and methods for performing mental acts, playing games or doing business, and programs for computers;

    So software patents are actually illegal in Europe. Strangely enough the European Patents Office seems to think otherwise though.

  • Re:Unfortunately^2 (Score:3, Informative)

    by metamatic ( 202216 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @09:29AM (#12993553) Homepage Journal
    And unfortunately, the GATT TRIPS agreements mean that the WTO will be forcing the individual signatory countries (such as the UK) to enact software patents.
  • Re:Victory! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @09:32AM (#12993590)

    The voting shows, that it is an important issue and both sides try to play on safety. Both sides voted against the bill.

    Yes ... which really means the European Commission (a bunch of unelected arrogant burocrats ignoring the European Parliament and the citizens) was badly wrong.

    As Rocard (the rapporter MP on the issue) put it during the debate,

    "Over every thing else here there is a collective and unanimous anger of all the parliament against the inadmissible manner in which it has been treated by the Commission and the Conseil. (ovation from the MPs)" (my transation, you can hear the French original from ?1 [])

  • Re:Victory! (Score:2, Informative)

    by rsynnott ( 886713 ) <> on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @09:39AM (#12993646) Homepage
    Actually, the council is indirectly elected; it is made up of the elected ministers of the constituent countries. The COMMISSION is unelected.
  • Re: Not quite (Score:5, Informative)

    by geoffspear ( 692508 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @09:55AM (#12993799) Homepage
    Keep reading.

    The provisions of paragraph 2 shall exclude patentability of the subject-matter or activities referred to in that provision only to the extent to which a European patent application or European patent relates to such subject-matter or activities as such.

    They're not "actually illegal" in Europe; they can still be granted by national patent offices. As the person you were replying to stated.

  • Re:Unfortunately... (Score:5, Informative)

    by fredrikj ( 629833 ) * on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @09:58AM (#12993827) Homepage
    What we really need is a directive to *ban* software patents on the EU level...

    The European Patent Convention from the 80s already prohibits patents on "programs for computers". The catch is that the EPO doesn't follow it, although it should.
  • Re:Not quite (Score:4, Informative)

    by albalbo ( 33890 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @10:18AM (#12993997) Homepage
    Errr, yes. Just because they said one thing to you doesn't mean that's actually the truth.

    Go look at the patent they gave ARM under *the current rules* - they've allowed ARM to patent C pointers (yes, void *ptr) when used to emulate register sets in CPU emulators.

    The UKPO is full-on for software patenting, and the fact that you think otherwise means you've bought into their hype. Go look at what they actually *do*, not what they say.
  • Re:Wow. (Score:2, Informative)

    by ThaReetLad ( 538112 ) <sneaky@blueRABBI ... minus herbivore> on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @10:22AM (#12994038) Journal
    I got lots of interesting replies. Some good ones from the lib dems MEPs, some so-so ones from the conservatives, a disappointing one from my labour MEP and some bizzare ones from UKIP (this is the South West, damned silly west country farmers). I also wrote to my MP who forwarded my letter to Lord Sainsbury at the DTI, and I got a very intersting letter back from him saying, on one hand, that the CIID wouldn't really change anything, but on the other hand that it was neccesary for encouraging innovation. I didn't really understand that. Either it changes nothing or it's going to be really beneficial. It can't be both.

    It just showed me how the council of ministers was trying to pull a fast one.

    I guess what this proves is that in modern Britain, and contrary to UKIP claims, the MEPs do the best job of all our elected representatives. I suspect that is because they are fairly low profile and are therefore aware of their role as servant of their electorates, rather than the self-serving nature of most politicians who are in it for the power, fame and influence. Time to scrap westminster I say.
  • by mslr ( 605164 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @10:26AM (#12994073)
    A while back I sent an email to my MEP Richard Corbett. He replied saying he was against the idea of Software Patents. Just after lunchtime today I received an email from him which follows: Dear Mr Ross, You wrote to me recently on the subject of software patents and the proposed Directive on patentability of computer-implemented inventions. I thought you would like to know that the European Parliament voted today, shortly after 11am UK time, to reject the proposed Directive outright. Labour MEPs voted with their Socialist colleagues from across Europe in support of this motion, resulting in a huge majority of MEPs (648 to 14) voting to reject. Parliament's decision to throw out the proposed Directive is final and the proposal cannot be resurrected. A change to the law is now no longer on the horizon. If you would like more information, please do contact my office. I will be issuing a press release and updating my website shortly to take into account these developments. In the meantime, I would like to thank the hundreds of constituents who contacted my colleagues and me on this issue. Relying on your informed and clearly expressed opinions, Labour MEPs were able to vote accordingly and help to reject this ill-judged legislative proposal. With best wishes, Richard Corbett MEP ---- Its nice to know there are MP's out there who listen. I have sent an email in thanks - he deserves it :-)
  • Re:Wow. (Score:-1, Informative)

    by jeep ( 38219 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @10:34AM (#12994160)
    I did write to 3 MEP from my region (Aquitaine, France).

    Gerard Onesta (Green) : I got a reply the next day. Strongly against SW patents. Made a very informed reply saying how the Green care about Software Freedom. the fight against abusive IP right extensions is on their agenda.

    No reply from Alain Lamassoure (UMP, moderate right wing).
    No reply from Gilles Savary (PS, moderate left wing).

    I was pretty happy at first to see the large rejection margin, but after thinking about it, I fear the margin is too large, and that the rumor that the pro-sw-patent side prefered to kill the directive rather than to see it amended is founded.

    I want an explicit european position in a directive to prevent sw patents to become reality forever.

    As long as we do not have such a law the pro-sw-patent lobby will try to introduce the concept again and again.

    Men stay in office for a limited time. Corporations are immortal.
  • Re:Not quite (Score:3, Informative)

    by dehuit ( 57744 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @10:37AM (#12994210)
    Can anyone post a link to a good article outlining exactly what is and isn't legal in the UK WRT software patents?

    Wikipedia [] has quite useful information as usual. In particular, it addresses the issue of art 52.3 that I left out ( a few posts up someone also mentions this ): the as such provisio, that leads to the dreaded discussion about whether software is 'technical'. No UK lawsuits are mentioned though, and I can't find any.

    52.3: The provisions of paragraph 2 shall exclude patentability of the subject-matter or activities referred to in that provision only to the extent to which a European patent application or European patent relates to such subject-matter or activities as such .
  • Sign of appreciation (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anders Andersson ( 863 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @10:41AM (#12994258) Homepage

    If you want to show your appreciation, don't even consider e-mail. Use snail mail instead, maybe even handwritten. It clearly demonstrates that you think it's worth both the postage and your effort to write and send it, and the recipient hardly risks getting spammed that way.

    Sending e-mail to congratulate someone is almost like sending a get-well-card postage-due. It's cheap, in every possible sense of the word.

  • Re:The EU Rocks! (Score:3, Informative)

    by pjrc ( 134994 ) <> on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @10:53AM (#12994390) Homepage Journal
    This flamefest begins with a factually incorrect statement:

    1. The US has started (and "encouraged") more wars and murdered more humans in a 50 year period than anyone else before in recorded history.

    Nope, sorry. Try again. Think "Hitler".

  • Re:Wow. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Mixel ( 723232 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @10:59AM (#12994454) Homepage

    Tom Wise (UKIP) - against the legislation: "UKIP and its MEP's are fundamentally opposed to this proposal and will do all they can to prevent it coming into law. You should also address your comments to the British government, as they will also be involved in deciding a position"

    So please write to your MP too!
  • by steve_l ( 109732 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @11:11AM (#12994567) Homepage
    I contacted the lib dems and UKIP a few months back.

    lib dems: Email back about how they were very unhappy about the way the council was ignoring parliament, possibly planning to take a stance simply for the power-struggle between parliament and council, rather than for the merits of patents. Though I guess if they had been in favour of the legislation, they would have gone with it.

    UK Independence Party: a letter in the post (!) back complaining about how the EU was always interfering, it was our right to set our own patent laws, etc. I don't know if they were in favour or not; their ideology was in the way.
  • by wflynn ( 869979 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @11:34AM (#12994652)
    I agree it could be better. However it isn't totaly true that the commision has sole rights of legislative initiative:
    "Since the Maastricht Treaty, the EP has a limited right of legislative initiative in that it has the possibility of asking the Commission to put forward a proposal." Key players in the EU legislative process []

    In pratice for any major changes it seems to me, to be the council which has more power, as it determins the overall political direction of the EU. Also a lot of the horse trading between member states goes on here...

    Which ever country holds the presedancy (currently the UK) sets the agenda........ just look at the slagging match going on between the UK and France... over the CAP.

  • Re:Votes against (Score:3, Informative)

    by Zarhan ( 415465 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @12:42PM (#12995109)
    Group of the European People's Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats:
    - Zuzana Roithová, Czech, []

    Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe:
    - Sarah Ludford, UK []
    - Bill Newton Dunn, UK, []

    Socialist Group in the European Parliament
    - Emanuel Vasconcelos Jardim Fernandes, Portugal

    Independence/Democracy Group (Against EU):
    - Nils Lundgren, Sweden, []

    Union for Europe of the Nations Group (Right-wing, nationalistic):
    - Liam Aylward, Ireland
    - Brian Crowley, Ireland, []
    - Gintaras Didziokas, Lithuania
    - Guntars Krasts, Latvia
    - Seán Ó Neachtain, Ireland, []
    - Rolandas Pavilionis, Lithuania
    - Eoin Ryan, Ireland, []
    - Konrad Szymanski, Poland
    - Roberts Zile, Latvia

    Credits to usenet group finet.toiminta.effi.
  • by TheFilz ( 675934 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @02:20PM (#12996108)
    Warning: Scary huge and slow DOC/PDF file ahead!

    Votes and names of today []

    oh how I love this perfectly structured EU homepage..
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @02:38PM (#12996293)
    Roll Call Votes in the Parliament are recorded in the minutes. The large(1.2Mb) PDF document is at... EP//NONSGML+PV+20050706+RES-RCV+DOC+PDF+V0//EN&LEV EL=2&NAV=X []

    Those voting against the Rocard amendments, and therefore in favour of the Software Patents Directive were...

    ALDE: Ludford, Newton Dunn
    IND/DEM: Lundgren
    PPE-DE: Roithová
    PSE: Fernandes
    UEN: Aylward, Crowley, Didziokas, Krasts, Ó Neachtain, Pavilionis, Ryan, Szymanski, Zile
  • by cbare ( 313467 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @02:38PM (#12996298) Homepage Journal
    Intellectual property law ideally should strike a balance between rewarding producers of intellectual property and allowing society to benefit from innovation. Through the efforts of lobbyists, the system has become skewed to benefit technological incumbents, at the expense of the public good.

    While a market based means of rewarding producers of intellectual property is essential, its primary goal must be to maximize benefit to society. Intellectual property protection comes with a cost. Protection is an artificial legal monopoly. It is an economic fact that monopolies are anticompetitive, restrict the functioning of the free market, and result in higher costs to consumers and lost opportunity for businesses.

    The 20 year duration of a "utility" patent is an eternity in the world of technology. The video cassette, for example, ran its entire course from invention to obsolescence in about 20 years. In software, this cycle is more like 5 years. The 20 year period is entirely inappropriate for software.

    The United States granted patentability to software and business methods. The result has been the granting of absurd patents, such as the "one-click" patent awarded to Amazon. There are numerous examples of equally absurd patents for software that are as obvious to a software engineer as the "one-click" idea is obvious to anyone who's ever used a mouse. Billions have been wasted on meritless lawsuits like the SCO lawsuit against IBM. An entire industry of "patent terrorists" has evolved which produce nothing but IP lawsuits. Clearly this is not furthering innovation.

    Sadly, the US congress is so controlled by corporate lobbyists that the plain and simple best interest of the public loses out to the narrow, but well financed interests of intellectual property holders. It's nice to see that the EU parliament is not quite so corrupted, yet.

    I refer you to Stanford professor Lawrence Lessig and Berkeley professor Stephen M. Maurer for more information on this issue. [] /maurer.htm []

    For those so inclined, consider supporting the EFF: []

  • by N3wsByt3 ( 758224 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @04:29PM (#12997398) Journal
    Someone posted the warning that we should be ever vigilant, because big corps and all the pro-swpat cronies will not rest untill they get what they want, and that they would try other means if this directive failed.

    Well, gues what: the FIRST SIGNS are already there. Here is a comment I stumbled upon already:

    "During the debate on Tuesday, Commissioner Joaquín ALMUNIA told MEPs: "Should you decide to reject the common position, the Commission will not submit a new proposal." Attention now moves to the proposed directive for a Community patent, currently in discussion in the Council, mentioned by a number of MEPs as the appropriate legislative instrument to address the issue of software patentability."

    So, now, it's not the CII anymore, but something weasily called the 'community patent'. Let's be very watchful on these sudden outbursts of 'helpful' patentreforms, and deny anyone to amend something to the point that it becomes a second software patent directive.
  • by JPMH ( 100614 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @07:02PM (#12998721)
    Note that many of those who voted YES did so because they supported our amendments, wanted to see them passed, and wanted to see the Council respond to them.

    That goes in particular for Zuzanna Roithova, who co-ordinated the breakaway group in the Conservative (PPE) faction, in favour of our amendments against her own party line.

    It also goes for Andrew Duff (one of the 14 abstainers), who brought 70% of the Liberal (ALDE) group round to our position.

    It wasn't necessarily good guys that voted NO; and it wasn't necessarily bad guys that voted YES.

  • Re:Not quite (Score:3, Informative)

    by nickos ( 91443 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @08:12PM (#12999096)
    Look at this [] to see the view of someone from the other side. We're "well meaning but deeply mislead" apparently...

    "Today we - you! - saved patentability of computer implemented inventions. Nothing that was patentable yesterday will be unpatentable tomorrow and vice versa.

    At the 11th hour the European Parliament resoundingly rejected attempts by the anti-patent groups to narrow the scope of patentability for high-tech inventions. Your businesses are safe.

    Of course we do not have a harmonised EU-wide system for protecting computer implemented inventions and that is a pity. If we had had our way - and another few months - we would have had just that. However, after five years of intense lobbying by well meaning but deeply mislead programmers, the fact that the Parliament was not ready to accept their arguments is a testament to the hours of hard work put in by people across Europe.

    Read more... []

"Never give in. Never give in. Never. Never. Never." -- Winston Churchill