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EU Software Patents law back to square one

Patents: FFII are reporting that ‘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.’

Michel Rocard MEP 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, the Irish Presidency’s sponsorship by Microsoft and the attempted ratifications of the political (dis)agreement at several fishery Council meetings.

He mentioned that at a meeting with the Polish government, the industry players confirmed that the Council text allowed pure software patents, and 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.

This is good news for the anti-swpat side. Nul points for the Irish Commissioner, Charlie McCreevy, who ‘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’.

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