Member states keep on pushing for software patents

By EDRi · June 15, 2005

Behind closed doors most EU member states have already rejected almost all the amendments on the software patent directive put forward by the European Parliament. On 20/21 June the EP commission on legal affairs (JURI) will vote on the 256 proposed amendments and on 6 July the EP will vote in plenary. In order to immediately proceed with the directive after the plenary vote, the member states are already deciding their joint position.

The Foundation for a free information infrastructure has obtained the minutes from a secret meeting on 27 May 2005 from the representatives of the member states. The Luxemburg presidency explained the nature of the meeting: to find out “which amendments a member state can not accept and which amendments could be acceptable as a compromise.”

FFII reports: “Some delegations even mention the potential use of meaningless or even confusing (but non-limiting) amendments for ‘negotiation situations’ with the EP. The European Parliament has only two choices if it wants to have some say in the rest of the process. The first possibility is approval of all key amendments which limit the scope of the directive. Just one of those may be enough to reach Conciliation (the official discussion between the EP, Council and Commission after the Council’s second reading), but is insufficient for a strong negotiation position. If Parliament wants to continue the procedure, without such a steadfast position it could just as well save time by simply approving the current Council text. The second possibility is outright rejection.”

Only Poland consistently supports the Rocard amendment, occasionally hesitantly supported by Denmark, Slovakia and France. On the other hand, Austria completely supported the German pro software patent position, in a remarkable change from its earlier abstention in the decisive Council meeting.

The pro software patent stance from the German, Spanish and Dutch delegates is in complete denial of the will of their national parliaments, who all adopted motions to explicitly prevent the patentability of software and modify the Council proposal accordingly, in line with most of the amendments suggested by EP rapporteur Michel Rocard. In the Netherlands, the deputy minister had to apologise in public for the misbehaviour of her patent official, and promise the Netherlands would not say anything anymore on the topic until first approved by parliament.

Meanwhile the pro software patent lobby has reverted to handing out ice-creams to MEPs. On 1 June 2005 Simon Gentry of the Campaign for Creativity convinced an assistant of an important UK MEP from the EPP group to send an email to all members of the Parliament promising them an ice-cream on the Place du Luxembourg that afternoon in exchange for their support for the Council position. Many MEPs were not amused.

FFII: Patent administrators preempting parliaments in Council (06.06.2005)

FFII: MEP offers colleagues ice-cream for pro-patent vote (01.06.2005)

Secret minutes from the Council’s patent policy working party (27.05.2005)