Software patent debate heads for climax
The not for profit association FFII (Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure) is assembling all forces for a climax in the battle against the patentability of software programs. On 6 July 2005 the European Parliament will vote in plenary on the proposed directive on computer-implemented inventions. It is the second reading. In the first reading Parliament rejected the Commission proposal with a large majority, but that protest was largely ignored by the ministers of competitiveness from the member states. In the second reading an absolute majority of all MEPs is required to reject or amend the proposal, i.e. 367 votes, irrespective of absences or abstentions. In order to make sure enough MEPs are present, FFII is calling on all supporters to contact their national Europarl representatives.
First the commission on legal affairs (JURI) will vote on 20/21 June 2005. In a great collaborative effort FFII has build a file with all the amendments tabled on the proposal prepared by rapporteur Michel Rocard, with extensive voting advice.
On 1 June 2005 FFII organised a conference in Brussels with the CCIA (Computer and Communications Industry Association) and 4 MEPs. This morning two other hearings were organised by the Europarl itself. One hearing was organised by the Greens together with FSF Europe with keynote speaker Richard Stallman and another by the EPP-ED group with Theodora Karamanli from the European Patent Office and many representatives from both SMEs and multinational companies. Finally, this evening demonstrations will take place in Brussels, Vienna and Helsinki.
According to FFII notes on the conference there was an interesting debate with Mark MacGann, the executive director of EICTA, about the validity of the ‘economic majority’ presented by FFII against software patents. This open list is now signed by 544 companies, representing an annual turnover of almost 1.5 billion euro. EICTA (European Information, Communications and Consumer Electronics Technology Industry Association) represents 32 national ICT/CE associations from 24 European countries and fully supports the Council position. MacGann explained that software patents were sufficiently excluded. Immediately a representative from SUN stood up and said EICTA could not speak on behalf of their company on software patents. Similarly, a representative from ISOC Poland said the Polish IT association had equally rejected the position of EICTA.
The German e-zine Heise was present at the conference and reports that the Council is already setting up trilogue meetings to reach a common position, independent of the outcome of the EP plenary vote, to prevent any official conciliation procedure. If Council, Commission and European Parliament reach such an informal agreement, the directive can immediately enter into force after the EP vote.
Softwarepatente: EU-Rat will kurzen Prozess bei der Richtlinie machen (02.06.2005)
FFII notes on the 1 June conference (01.06.2005)
FFII analysis and voting recommendations per article (ongoing)
Sign-up campaign economic majority