Dutch parliament blocks patent vote

By EDRi · August 15, 2004

On 1 July 2004 the Dutch Lower House adopted a motion directed at Minister Brinkhorst and State Secretary Van Gennip (Economic Affairs) to withdraw the Dutch vote in support of the Council of Ministers’ text for the Directive on Software Patents. It was quite a surprise the motion was accepted.

In a letter to MPs, the State Secretary acknowledged that the Ministers initial claim was false that the Dutch agreement with the proposal didn’t have any significant meaning. According to the Minister it was only a hammer piece, without any significant difference from earlier proposals. In the debate following the letter, on 24 June, the State Secretary got away with the embarrassing excuse that ‘an error was made in the word-processor’, somehow changing the crucial ‘no’ into ‘yes!’.

Dutch MPs didn’t accept these explanations, initiated a second debate and took a historical step in sending the minister back to the Council with the embarrassing mission of having to withdraw his agreement and convert it into an abstention.

Many leading scientists, small and medium enterprises and concerned citizens have objected against attempts to introduce broad patentability of software in Europe. In September 2003, the European Parliament voted in favour of numerous amendments that limited the patentability of logical algorithms, but the Council of Ministers clearly ignored this wish and put a new proposal on the table that was even worse than the original proposal.

According to Van Uytvanck, spokesman of FFII Netherlands (the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure), “this political signal reaches much further than just The Netherlands. We hope that other European countries that also have their doubts about the proposal of the Council will also withdraw their support, so that the current proposal no longer has a majority. The historic precedent has been set now.”

Summary of the parliamentary debate (in Dutch, 01.07.2004)

Press release FFII Netherlands (01.07.2004)