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A group of seven mid-sized European businesses has called on the European Parliament to pass amendments to the directive of computer implemented inventions that would restrict the scope of the bill.

The group is a mix of open source developers, proprietary software firms and internet companies, and in total employs around 4,000 people across Europe. Each is concerned that the directive will have a negative impact on their businesses, if it passes unchanged.

The new alliance, which includes browser-maker Opera, issued a statement calling for businesses to get involved in the lobbying process: "It would be unrealistic to believe that everyone understands the issue of software patents," it said. "We all have to spend time and money on lobbying or otherwise we'll lose without a fight, and in that case, we'll all be forced to spend much more time and money on dealing with individual patent assertions."

Last week, a parliamentary committee surprised most observers by rejecting many of the amendments proposed by Michel Rocard, the bill's rapporteur. The vote was widely seen as a win for the pro patent lobby, and for big business. Although parliament does not have to follow the committee's lead when it votes next Wednesday, it is thought likely that it will follow similar lines.

The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure acknowledged that some symbolically important amendments have been retained, for example, the definitions of technical and technology have been refined. However, the group warned that "the result overall leaves the key loopholes of the Council's text wide open, and in some cases even widened further."

Speaking on behalf of the group, anti-software patent campaigner Florian Mueller said that getting more amendments passed would take the fight over the bill into extra time. "It won't be easy," he said. "But it can be done." ®

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