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The European directive on software patents is another step closer to being adopted. According to The International Herald Tribune, the directive will not be debated any further before ministers vote on adopting it as a common position.

The Committee of Permanent Representatives (Coreper) met on Wednesday night in anticipation of the vote on the common position. Coreper is responsible for preparing the agenda for the ministerial Council of the European Union meetings.

In these privately held preparation sessions, member states are able to raise any issues they have about things on the ministerial agenda. Coreper can mark items with an A or a B: B items need to be debated before they can be voted on, but A items, like the software patents directive, can go straight through.

The council of ministers has already voted to accept the current form of the directive. The impending vote is to formally adopt the draft. In November, it looked like some countries might be having second thoughts about they way they had voted. It is possible for a country to adopt a new position, but this rarely happens in practice.

The final vote is expected to take place next week. If the draft is accepted as the common position, it will go back to the Parliament for its second reading. Some amendments are possible here, but they will be difficult to pass. Support of the majority of all MEPs is required to make changes, including absentees.

In related news, Lord Sainsbury confirmed today that he will set up a workshop to examine the definition of technical effect, as it relates to software patents.

He told The Register: "I'm not certain that it will affect the directive, but a workshop will be well worth having." If nothing else, he said, it will influence how the UK Patent Office thinks about the terms when it is examining patents. "It sensitises them to concerns that this not be abused."

He first suggested the idea during a meeting with concerned members of the public, held earlier this week. ®

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