Demonstration against software patents
1.600 protesters followed a call of the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) for a demonstration in Brussels on 14 April 2004. The event, a protest against new plans to allow for direct and extensive ‘patentability of computer-implemented inventions’ in the EU, was followed by a one-and-a-half day conference at the European Parliament, co-organised by the Green/EFA political group and different Linux user-groups from 25 European countries. The European Parliament voted on 24 September 2003 against all proposals that would make software patentable and added additional safeguards, such as freedom of publication and interoperation. This outcome was unacceptable to both Commission and representatives from the Member States. They have been working on a new scheme since.
The Competitiveness Council of Ministers was supposed to have voted on the Software Patent Directive on 27 November 2003, but due to continuing controversy over the text and heated disagreements between the Parliament and the Commission, some Member States (most notably France, which wants to conduct further consultations with stake-holders) called for the Council vote to be postponed.
In January 2004, the Irish Presidency of the Council proposed a text deleting most of the amendments introduced by the Parliament and lifting restrictions to the direct patentability of computer programs, data structures and process descriptions. Under this proposed compromise, ‘computer-implemented’ algorithms and business methods, protocols and data formats would be inventions in the sense of patent law, and the publication of a functional description of a patented idea, even for interoperability purposes, would constitute a patent infringement.
On 6 April 2004, the Irish Presidency decided to refer the issue to the COREPER, the Committee of Member States’ Permanent Representatives. The Presidency hopes that bringing the discussions to the ‘political’ level will make it possible to lift remaining objections and to reach an agreement in time for a common position to be adopted at the meeting of the Competitiveness Council on May 17-18. The draft Directive will then go back to the Parliament for a second reading.
Intellectual property for software in the EU is currently covered by copyright laws in the same way as written material. However, the European Patent Office (EPO) has been granting approximately 30.000 software patents over the years, thus deliberately infringing the European Patent Convention (EPC) provisions.
Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure event site http://plone.ffii.org/events/2004/bxl04/
Pictures of the Brussels demonstration http://wiki.ael.be/index.php/Demo14and15aprilPictures
Battle resumes over EU plans on computer-related patents (15.04.2004) http://europa.eu.int/ISPO/ida/jsps/index.jsp?fuseAction=showDocument&documentID=2417&parent=chapter&preChapterID=0-140-194
EDRI-gram: ‘European Parliament limits software patents’ (25.09.2003) http://www.edri.org/?id=000100000112