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MEPs vote to restrain pan-Europe patents

Broadly approved, though

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The European Parliament today adopted the compromise resolution on patent policy put forward by a coalition of MEPs, by a majority of 494 to 109 votes. Parliament made some further amendments to the resolution, which already sought to restrain parliament's approval of the contentious EPLA (European Patent Litigation Agreement).

The original resolution has been championed by Commissioner Charlie McCreevy. At first it was very strongly pro-EPLA, and at one stage it looked like parliament was getting ready to vote it down.

But last week, after McCreevy acknowledged some of the concerns about the draft, a compromise was put forward that would allow the Parliament to broadly support the EPLA, but require certain amendments to the text. Exactly what those amendments where was not specified, leading some anti-patent campaigners to complain that the compromise resolution was too vague.

Critics of the EPLA were concerned that the agreement would remove democratic control from the granting of patents, put too much power in the hands of the EPO (European Patent Office) and result in increased litigation costs, particularly harmful for small businesses.

They were also concerned that by putting the EPO in charge, the EPLA effectively paved the way for software patents to be officially granted in the EU.

The compromise agreement does deal with some of these issues, but some watchers see a longer battle ahead.

Particularly significant, we are told, is amendment number seven, which officially voiced the Parliament's "concerns about democratic control, judicial independence and litigation costs".

"The good news is that the EP is the first institution to have raised major objections concerning the draft EPLA in its present form. The bad news is that the EP stopped short of throwing a spanner in the EPLA works, and we have yet to find the first political body to oppose the EPLA in stronger terms," long-time anti-software patent campaigner Florian Mueller said.

The FFII, meanwhile, says it welcomes the overall result, describing it as a far cry from the original draft, which "almost unequivocally" supported the EPLA. It says it is not happy that the amended compromise still cedes so much power to Europe's bureaucracy, but says it is "80 per cent happy with the result". ®

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