November 22, 2000

Software patent decision postponed in Europe

Author: JT Smith

European governments wait for a Democratic debate

Bruxelles, Copenhagen, London, Madrid, Munich, Paris. 2000-11-22.
With
the exception of Austria, Lichtenstein and Switzerland, all European
countries voted in Munich yesterday against an extension of the
patent
system to software. The exception on computer programs will be
maintained in the European Patent Convention after its revision.
This
move is a clear victory for democracy, since it allows the European
Commission to proceed with its public consultation on software
patents, together with the European Parliament. National governments
in Europe which are currently reviewing in detail the pros and the
cons of an extension of the patent system to software, will also be
able to participate in the debate.
Nicolas Pettiaux, belgian representative for the EuroLinux Alliance
of
software publishers and non profit organisations, warns however that
"yesterday's vote should not be interpreted as a vote against
software
patents, but rather as a vote to postpone any decision on this
matter
until the consultation launched by the European Commission is
closed".

But, according to Stéfane Fermigier of AFUL, member of EuroLinux:
"the
General Directorate for Internal Market at the European Commission,
which is in charge of the consultation, has approached the software
patent issue with an ideological point of view. Both their
interpretation of the Law and their call for the consultation are
obviously biased in favour of software patents. Furthermore, until
very recently, they paid no attention to the economic effects and to
other side effects of software patents, as they should have
according
to the Rome and Amsterdam Treaties. We are still very far from a
decision to ban software patents in Europe."

Future EuroLinux actions will be targeted at convincing the European
Commission to take a balanced approach on software patents. As the
FFII/EuroLinux Software Patent Horror Gallery shows, the European
Patent Office is already abusively granting many patents on pure
software methods. Such kind of patents are then cancelled by
national
courts in case of dispute. A clarification is still needed in
Europe,
either in favour or against software patents. EuroLinux considers
that
software patents should clearly be banned in Europe because they
harm
innovation and that software should be protected through copyright.

References
European Patent Office -
http://www.european-patent-office.org
Software Patent Horror Gallery -
http://petition.eurolinux.org/examples
Statements for a Software Patent Free Europe -
http://petition.eurolinux.org/statements
The EuroLinux Public Consultation -
http://petition.eurolinux.org/consultation
The EuroLinux Petition for a Software Patent Free Europe -
http://petition.eurolinux.org
The EuroLinux File on Software Patents -
http://petition.eurolinux.org/reference

About EuroLinux - www.eurolinux.org
The EuroLinux Alliance for a Free Information Infrastructure is an
open coalition of commercial companies and non-profit associations
united to promote and protect a vigourous European Software Culture
based on Open Standards, Open Competition, Linux and Open Source
Software. Companies members or supporters of EuroLinux develop or
sell
software under free, semi-free and non-free licenses for operating
systems such as Linux, MacOS or Windows.

The EuroLinux Alliance launched on 2000-06-15 an electronic petition
to protect software innovation in Europe. The EuroLinux petition has
received so far massive support from more than 50.000 European
citizens, 2000 corporate managers and 200 companies.

The EuroLinux Alliance has co-organised in 1999, together with the
French Embassy in Japan, the first Europe-Japan conference on Linux
and Free Software. The EuroLinux Alliance is at the initiative of
the
www.freepatents.org Web site to promote and protect innovation and
competition in the European IT industry.

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