MEPs call for fresh start on software patents

A new year's resolution, no less

A group of MEPs has asked the European Parliament for a fresh start in the debate on computer-implemented inventions. The 61 members, from 13 countries, have tabled a "motion for a resolution" to restart the legislative process, effectively taking the debate on software patents back to square one.

The group is "of the opinion that conditions for a renewed referral have been met; and calls on the Commission to refer its proposal again to Parliament". It says the restart is needed because the vote on the directive straddled two parliaments.

Once again, Poland is at the forefront, with former Polish prime minister Jerzy Buzek heading the list and Poland's MEPs accounting for 31 signatories. Two MEPs from Germany and four from the Netherlands also signed. No UK representatives have put their name to the document, despite promises from various parties to oppose the directive in its current form.

Florian Mueller, director of campaign group NoSoftwarePatents, says the option to restart provides a "potentially face-saving" exit for the Council of Ministers. "[The Council] is caught between a rock and a hard place," he says. "Because it would either have to depart from an unwritten diplomatic code and renegotiate its position now, or it would have to decide against all democratic principles."

Patent lawyers Marks&Clark accuse campaigners against the directive of "misinforming industry and serving only to endanger genuine inventions.

"The directive was originally proposed to provide uniformity in the EU...so that innovators could be certain that their patents are valid throughout the EU. We should not allow this objective to be undermined."

The motion must be accepted either by the committee in charge, in this case the legal affairs committee, or by a plenary vote.

The committee will make its call as early as this month (January). The next plenary session begins late next month. ®

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