Turmoil about voting date for EU Patent directive

By EDRi · July 2, 2003

A proposal to hasten the plenary vote about the EU Software Patent directive was stopped just in time. The voting date now remains set at the 1st of September. The extra time seems extra important now that the public debate about the implications of this directive has only just taken of.

Last Monday, the French Social Democrat Michel Rocard, president of the EP Culture Committee and former prime minister of France, showed himself an avid opponent of the directive in an interview with the French Daily Liberation. In the interview, Rocard refers to the ‘Petition for a Free Europe without Software Patents’, signed by more 150.000 people, among which 2.000 IT company owners and chief executives and 25.000 developers and engineers from all sectors of the European information and telecommunication industries.

The rapporteur of the Directive, fellow Social Democrat Arlene McCarthy (UK Labour MEP) tried to rush the vote to June 30th, a mere twelve days after publication of the highly controversial report and ten days after the unexpected change of schedule.

Members of Parliament from all parties had complained that it was impossible to react adequately within a time frame of 10 days. Until Wednesday 25 June however, leaders of the two largest blocks, the socialists (PSE) and conservatives (PPE), seemed determined to follow the recommendations of their patent experts and go ahead with the vote quickly. They explained that there was no reason to wait, because all possible amendment proposals had already been submitted to the committees and translated to all languages, and there was no need for new amendments. This view however became increasingly difficult to uphold, as more and more MEPs in all parties became aware of the schedule change and pointed out that they wanted to prepare new amendments. Within the socialist group, a large opposition group, possibly the majority, gathered around Michel Rocard (FR), Luis Berenguer (ES), Evelyn Gebhardt (DE), Olga Zrihen (BE) and other MEPs who had played a prominent role in resisting software patentability. On 25 June, the climate change became apparent. More and more MEPs rumored that the schedule would not be upheld. Even Arlene McCarthy was quoted as saying that it might be too tight. A spokesman from the General Directorate for the Internal Market of the European Commission, that had been pushing for the directive together with Arlene McCarthy and other allies in the Parliament’s Committee for Legal Affairs and the Internal Market (JURI), meanwhile told journalists: “Arlene McCarthy has tried hard to have the vote conducted on June 30th, but as things now stand, this looks rather unlikely.” On 26 June the postponement became final, setting the vote back to the original date of the 1st of September. Parliament will be closed from 11 July until 25 August.

Petition for a Free Europe without Software Patents

Interview with Michel Rocard (Liberation, 20.06.2003)

English translation

Final draft report by Arlene McCarthy