EU patent legislation will ‘destroy small business’

Will the last person out of Europe switch the off lights?

The European Parliament will devastate the continent's small and medium-sized businesses if it adopts legislation that will force firms to apply for patent protection on all software they develop.

This picture of impending catastrophe is painted by the European Small Business Alliance (ESBA), a newly formed SME lobby, which was recently created by the merger of three federations about which we know little or nothing: CEA-PME (Confédération Européenne des Associations de Petites et Moyennes Entreprises), CEDI (European Confederation of Independents - Confédération Européenne Des Indépendants) and ESBA (European Small Business Alliance).

While the EU's controversial US-style Directive on the Patentability of Computer- Implemented Inventions is undoubtedly a cause for legitimate and serious concern - particularly among smaller European firms - we cannot help wondering if the pressure group's prophecies of doom amount to over-egging the software legislation pudding just a tad.

The group chillingly predicts that all European small business innovation will grind to a halt if the proposed legislation is adopted in place of the currently applicable copyright laws. "The alliance rejects the proposed, since this proposal strongly runs contrary to the interests of European software-snterprises. Should the European Parliament adapt this proposal without any changes, the European economy will be threatened with the loss of thousands of jobs, a dramatic decline in innovation and even the stop of innovation for SMEs."

ESBA warns that, that if the directive is enforced in its current form, SMEs that do not possess legal advisors will be confronted with "enormous additional costs", as they will be obliged to take out patents every software-project.

According to the group, existing legislation - as regulated in the copyright law and the European Patent Agreement, Article 52 - provides sufficient legal control to police the Euro software industry. ®

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