European Union Rejects Software Patent Law

The EU parliament overwhelmingly rejected a sweeping software patent law by 648 against, 14 for and 18 abstentions. It is unlikely that a new attempt will be made for some time.

The bill had been loaded down with 170 amendments intended to limit what could be patented, producing an unlikely coalition of both open source and patent advocates. Many hope that this outcome will curtail the current practice of seeking patents on software (from the Wall Street Journal):

The Greens who led the opposition said they hoped the European patent offices would now take a more restrictive view on patenting software. “MEPs have given the software patents directive a third class burial,” said Eva Lichtenberger, an Austrian parliamentarian who led the party's effort on the bill. Patent officenrs “must halt its current practice of granting patents for software, a practice which there is no legal basis.” They “must think now about creating policies that benefit not only big business.”
Supporters of the bill hope that this backlash will be avoided. “As I've always said it is better to have no directive than to have a bad directive,” said Sharon Bowles, Liberal Democrat and a patent attorney.

You can read more about it here and here.

I am a little torn on this issue. On one side I do think that software inventors deserve a little reward for their hard work, and copyright doesn't seem to be enough. On the other side, I know that little companies can be ruined by getting hauled into patent courts, even if they have all the merits on their side. There has to be an easier way.

Josh Poulson

Posted Wednesday, Jul 6 2005 08:49 AM

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