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 Home > News > General Computing > EU Sees...
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Friday, March 04, 2005
EU Sees Approval of Contested Software Patent Bill


European Union President Luxembourg expects the bloc's ministers to approve a controversial draft law on patenting computer-based inventions on Monday, a Luxembourg official said.

The decision would mark a victory for advocates of patenting some computer software, notably big firms such as Microsoft and Nokia, against many small companies, which fear the planned law would push them out of the market.

The ministers' approval of the draft law would send it to a second reading -- the phase in which it is more difficult for the skeptical EU Parliament to push through amendments.

"The directive on computer-assisted inventions ... is an A-point at Monday's meeting," the official said referring to an issue which in the EU jargon is to be approved without a debate. "We have not seen any change of heart on the part of any EU member," the official told reporters on Friday. The draft law has sparked heated debate over whether the EU should steer away from patenting computer programs or follow the U.S. model of granting patents for Internet business methods such as online bookseller Amazon's famous "one-click shopping."

Poland, the EU's biggest newcomer, has been postponing the approval on the proposed rules for more than two months, saying it needed more time to analyze the impact of the legislation on small and medium-size software companies. But Polish diplomats now say they will remain silent at Monday's meeting of competitiveness minister unless other countries raise objections.

Poland's skepticism emboldened the European Parliament to voice its opposition.

The assembly has demanded that the European Commission, the EU executive, resubmit the draft law to a first reading, which would make it easier to propose amendments aimed at limiting the scope of possible software patents. The Commission, which has the sole right to propose pan-EU legislation, has refused, saying that the ministers should decide on the draft law.

Critics of the legislation say it would harm small software developers who lack big companies' legal muscle. Some also fear it would restrict the amount of so-called "open source" software available for free. Advocates of the bill argue current laws do not allow firms to protect expensive inventions that take years to develop.


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