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EU jettisons software patent amendments

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The European Directive on Computer Implemented Inventions edged closer to becoming law, yesterday, when the Parliamentary JURI committee voted to scrap most of the amendments to the directive put in place to restrict the patentability of pure software inventions.

Some of the changes proposed by Michel Roccard, the bill's rapporteur, were kept. For instance, the definition of "technical" has been pinned down as "belonging to a field of technology", and a field of technology has been defined as "a field of applied natural science". This amendment has been welcomed by anti-software patent campaigners at the FFII, who argue that the inclusion of the word "natural" rules out patents on business methods and maths.

However, much of the original directive remains. For example, the paragraph covering exclusions from patentability has not been changed. The FFII warns that this section could still be interpreted to mean that only source code is excluded from being patented, rather than pure software inventions.

In a statement on its website, the FFII warns that although some symbolically important amendments have been retained, "the result overall leaves the key loopholes of the Council's text wide open, and in some cases even widened further."

The JURI vote still needs to be officially ratified by Parliament, which is slated to meet on 6 July to have its final vote. Parliament has opposed the directive every step of the way, so far, but it is unusual for the MEPs to vote against their own committee.

The result of the JURI vote has, unsurprisingly, been welcomed by EICTA, the pan-European IT trade body. President Mark MacCann described the outcome as "a pretty good result", the FT reports.

The FFII has details of the amendments here. ®

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Free software fans take a stand against software patents
Patent Office makes a technical contribution
EU takes axe to software patents directive

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