EU software patents directive is history

Patents: A great outcome! The proposed Directive has been dropped, in the face of massive opposition. Coverage: /., FFII,, VNUnet, FSFE.

Unfortunately, Rocard’s proposed amendments which would have turned this directive into a major win for us, didn’t pass — but it’s still a good win. Software patents are not explicitly legal throughout Europe; although some jurisdictions do permit them, they’re in a legal grey area, and prosecution is therefore hard (and very expensive for patent holders). This is a much better situation than if the directive as proposed by the Council had passed, since that would have explicitly legalised them throughout the EU.

On top of this win, what I find significant is that we’ve now brought the issue from where it was a few years ago, as a minor concern known only to a few uber-geeks, to a major political issue that made headlines around the globe. Even my local NPR affiliate reported on this decision! That’s a far cry from the mid-90’s, when I had a hard time explaining the point of theLeague for Programming Freedom to my hacker friends in the TCD Maths Department.

A great quote from the VNUnet article:

‘This represents a clear victory for open source,’ said Simon Phipps, chief open source officer at Sun Microsystems. ‘It expresses Parliament’s clear desire to provide a balanced competitive market for software.’

Yes, that’s Sun saying that less software patenting is a good thing. Believe me, that’s a great leap forward. Or check out Irish MEP Kathy Sinnott’s amazing comments. She hits the nail right on the head; I’m very impressed by that speech.

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