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Software patents: EU votes for restart

Shock JURI boost to anti-patent campaigners

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The European Parliament's committee on Legal Affairs (JURI) has voted overwhelmingly in favour of a restart of the whole legislative process of the controversial directive on computer implemented inventions. The result of the vote is a huge boost to anti-patent campaigners, who are concerned that the directive would allow patents to be granted on pure software inventions, as they are in the US.

Although anti-software campaigners had predicted this result, many others working in Brussels will be surprised. One source told El Reg that it is almost unprecedented for such a high profile piece of legislation to be sent back to the drawing board.

Although yesterday's result is being hailed by campaigners as a remarkable victory, Florian Muller, director of the No Software Patents movement, said that the battle was a long way from being over: "We have to keep pushing. In our case, for years to come," he said.

The European Commission must now resubmit its original proposal, or submit a new proposal; either will go to the Parliament for a First Reading. The bill's new rapporteur, MEP Michel Rocard, will shepherd the new proposal through the process all over again.

At the original First Reading, MEPs made several amendments considerably limiting the scope of the Commission's proposal. The Council of Ministers later removed most of the MEPs' changes, prompting accusations of undemocratic processes, and secret deals behind closed doors. Nonetheless, the Council's version was informally adopted as the parliament's common position in May last year.

Since then, groups like FFII and No Software Patents have waged a campaign to stop the formal adoption of the directive. Poland has blocked this, twice, and was recently joined in its opposition by Denmark. ®

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