Wednesday, May 18, 2005

THE EU CONTINUES ITS PATH TO THE STONE AGE: The European parliament has renewed it opposition to the software patents directive, by making substantial alterations to the draft.

A report on the amended directive, penned by the bill's rapporteur, Michel Rocard, discloses that software would only be patentable if it controlled a physical process, or a controllable force of nature (welcome to 1984!). Patents would not be allowed for software that handles "the treatment, the manipulation, the representation and the presentation of information".

In normal circumstances, parliament would be restricted to introducing changes it proposed during the first reading. However, because the readings have crossed two presidencies, this requirement has been waived.

Unsurprisingly, the representatives of big business are not happy. Mark MacGann, president of Eicta told the FT: "This proposal would eliminate much of the patent protection accessible today by the industry in Europe. It goes against the fundamentals of existing patent law in Europe. Patents based on data processing would no longer be enforceable."

To pass these changes at the plenary vote in July, Parliament must accept them by an absolute majority. Anti-patent campaigners are concerned that this will make it difficult for the amendments to move forward.

One can only hope . . .

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