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Poland scuppers EU software patent directive

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The Polish government has withdrawn its support for the European software patent directive. At a cabinet meeting in Warsaw yesterday, officials concluded that the directive does not meet its original objective of limiting patents on software and business methods in Europe.

According to a statement from the FFII (Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure), without Polish support the bill is 16 votes short of a qualified majority, and cannot be passed. This is due, in part, to the new voting weights allocated to each member state.

The decision was welcomed by the Polish Green Party. Magda Mosiewicz, co-chairman of the Polish Greens, said: "I hope other countries will quickly adopt Poland's stance and refuse to vote on the text unless it contains clear limits to the patentability of software and business methods."

The cabinet explained that at a meeting on 5 November, representatives of the software industry and several patent lawyers agreed that the current format does make all software potentially patentable. It added that it would offer its support to a directive that was unambiguous, but not one that allowed the basic functions of a computer programme to be patented.

Jan Macek of FFII Poland said that the decision provided a second opportunity for other countries, such as Luxembourg, Latvia, Denmark and Italy, to propose amendments to the Directive.

"The questionable compromise that the EU Council reached in May was the biggest threat ever to our economic growth, and to our freedom of communication," said Wladyslaw Majewski, president of the Internet Society of Poland. "The desire of the patent system and the patent departments of certain large corporations must never prevail over the interests of the economy and society at large."

The full statement of the Polish cabinet is available here, in Polish. ®

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