In the latest development in the ongoing battle over patent law in Europe, the European Commission has rejected a request by the European Parliament to rewrite the Computer Implemented Inventions Directive. The directive was unanimously rejected by the EP in January and scheduled for additional review that still could lead to redrafts.
Michael Q. Lee, attorney with Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox in Washington, D.C., told LinuxInsider that the directive is still open for modification during an EC session planned for March 7 and that this hot debate is still in wait-and-see mode for a final outcome.
“The latest announcement is causing a great amount of concern from the anti-patent lobby who believe that because of this delay, the European Commission has essentially decided not to rewrite the CIID,” Lee said. “But this is good news for those who believe that patents are useful because it means the EC is taking a firm position.”
Angry Anti-Patent Lobby
Opponents, including the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure, have aggressively lobbied against the directive, claiming it would lead to widespread patenting of software in Europe. Supporters of the patent rules, including Microsoft, deny that claim. The Netherlands has also backed the legislation.
Florian Mueller, the manager of the pan-European NoSoftwarePatents.com campaign, condemned the Commission’s decision: “Now we call on the EU Council to demonstrate a more democratic attitude and to reopen negotiations of its Common Position at the forthcoming meeting of the Competitiveness Council on Monday [March 9].”
Lee said the EC is not being swayed by pressure from Mueller and others in the anti-patent lobby and it appears that the group is going to fully explore the issue before making a final decision.
“I see this as a sign that the EC has recognized the scientific and economic value of software patents, so they want to fully vet the issue before making any rash decisions either way,” he said.
Microsoft’s push for EU software patents drew major attention recently after a Danish financial newspaper quoted Microsoft Denmark’s chief lobbyist as saying that Bill Gates threatened the Danish government with killing 800 jobs unless the EU were to legalize software patents.
The Danish social democrats responded with a press release stating that “blackmail shall not dictate Danish policy.” Microsoft has denied the claim.
Lee said those following the situation might find it useful to take a look at Europe’s patent landscape and compare it with the one that exists in the U.S.
“In the U.S. you have a company like Microsoft who has hundreds of software patents and yet they coexist with open source,” he said. “It can be done.”