EP Legal Committee approves of software patents

By EDRi · June 19, 2003

The European Parliament’s Committee for Legal Affairs and the Internal
Market (JURI) voted Tuesday 17 June about a list of proposed amendments to
the planned software patent directive. It was the third and last in a
series of committee votes. The results will be presented to the parliament
in plenary early in September. The other two commissions (Culture,
Industry) had chosen to more or less clearly forbid software patents. The
rapporteur of the JURI committee, Arlene McCarthy (UK socialist) also
claimed to be aiming for a “restrictive harmonisation of the status quo”
and “exclusion of software as such, algorithms and business methods from
patentability”. Yet McCarthy presented a voting list to fellow members of
parliament that does make it possible to turn ideas like the Amazon
One-Click shopping method into patentable inventions.

McCarthy and her followers rejected all amendment proposals that would
limit patentability while supporting all those that even go beyond the
European Commission’s proposal. The new amendments threaten to impose
unlimited patentability and patent enforceability in Europe, with little
chance of recovery for years to come.

Most of McCarthy’s proposals found a conservative-socialist 2/3 majority
(20 of 30 MEPs), whereas the proposals from the other committees (CULT,
ITRE) and study reports commissioned by parliament and other EU
institutions were disregarded. A few socialists and conservatives voted
together with Greens, Left and (partially) Liberals in favour of amendments
that would limit patentability, but they were overruled by the two biggest

Daniel Cohn-Bendit (Greens – Fr), co-president of the Greens/EFA group and
chairman of a conference earlier this year on software patents and SMEs,
commented: “This patent report is an insult even to the principle of free
trade. Pretending to protect inventors and their inventions, it instead
allows multinationals to lock up the market.”

Detailed description of the vote in JURI

Public debate about software patents in The Guardian: Richard Stallman and
Nick Hill attack software patents

Rapporteur Arlene McCarthy defends her proposals

(Contribution by Hartmut Pilch, Foundation For a Free Information structure)