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Software Patents Rejected!

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    Software Patents Rejected!


    STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) - The European Parliament will vote to kill an EU bill to patent software-related innovations, party officials said on Tuesday, shrugging off a warning from the European Commission that it would not submit fresh legislation.

    The issue has drawn heavy lobbying both by large technology companies such as Microsoft, Nokia and Siemens, who want better protection but opposed this version of the bill, and by advocates of narrower scope for patenting, who argued that wide patenting hurts smaller firms.

    The bill aims to harmonise how patents on "computer-implemented inventions" are applied across the EU.

    But at party meetings on Tuesday evening, members of the assembly's two dominant groups, the PSE socialists and the EPP centre-right, both decided to throw out the patent bill in a plenary vote on Wednesday, saying it would be safest to kill a bad bill that pleased nobody.

    "The EPP party meeting has just voted to reject the common position tomorrow morning," the group's spokesman Robert Fitzhenry told Reuters.

    Tony Robinson, spokesman for the PSE, said the group will also be voting to scrap the bill.

    The two groups combined have 468 deputies, easily passing the threshold needed to kill legislation in the 732-member assembly. Earlier in the day, the smaller ALDE liberal group, with 89 members, said it would also vote to reject the bill.

    A version of the bill agreed by the 25 member states of the EU left the assembly members divided and unable to muster the qualified majorities needed to amend it.

    "The rejection is the fallback option that everybody can understand in political terms and does not run the risk of the bill turning into a dog's breakfast (a mess)," liberal group spokesman Neil Corlett told Reuters, a view echoed by others.

    If the bill is not amended or killed, the member-state version would become law.

    "Since it is not sure that we can get a really good directive, then I would rather have no directive at all than one which could be misused to legitimise too much patenting," Eva Lichtenberger, a member of the Green party, told Reuters.

    The Greens and their allies in the assembly number 42.

    Lichtenberger hoped the debate will now turn to the possibility of an EU-based patent. Europe-wide patenting is currently handled by the European Patent Office with no recourse to a single court, forcing firms to defend them in each country -- a costly exercise.


    The lawmakers came under intense lobbying from large technology companies who said the bill, with the changes sought by the European Parliament, would expose their products to copycat versions from China. The legislation was also opposed by groups seeking to limit the scope of patents they say stifle innovation and shut small firms out of markets.

    Campaigners handed out leaflets on the train used by lawmakers from Brussels to Strasbourg on Monday after bombarding parliamentarians with e-mails in recent weeks.

    The bill's sponsor in the parliament, French socialist Michel Rocard, rejected criticism.

    "I call upon our multinational corporations to make the effort and adjust. It won't be as tough as they seem to think it will be," the former French prime minister told the legislature earlier on Tuesday.

    But later in the day, as momentum grew to kill the bill, Rocard was preparing the ground for its collapse.

    "It's better to have no directive than the wrong one," he told reporters. "Rejection is much more preferable than accepting the common position. A law not based on consensus works badly while a consensual law works better."

    Party sources said the common stance of the member states was also breaking down, making broad consensus on the bill even more difficult to obtain.


    At a debate on the bill on Tuesday morning, Britain's Andrew Duff of the liberals said killing the bill would also be unsatisfactory.

    "To fail to legislate at all would leave the industry to the mercy of the European Patent Office, the courts and panels of the World Trade Organisation. That could be a costly, legalistic and confusing situation," Duff said.

    Several members called for the European Commission, which proposed the legislation, to revisit the drawing board and come back with a fresh draft.

    However, the Brussels executive rejected drafting a new proposal and Economic Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia warned that allowing the bill to fail would hurt the EU aim of increasing the 25-nation bloc's economic competitiveness.

    "The Commission believes that the common position meets the requirements of introducing predictable framework that promotes and rewards innovation," Almunia told lawmakers.

    That's great news.

    All the software patent fiasco means is that big, rich bully-boy companies like Microsoft can patent binary and then apply legal pressure to shutdown or stall innovative competitors.



      I am all pro EU, however some things there are rightly pissing off people in this country. One of those things is that the fecking Executive dares to defy elected Parliament -- it is not the first time the EU Parliament voted against patents, yet the Execs greased by the lobbies defined and tried to keep patents in tact. >:

      I would have agreed with patents on software if and only if the maximum time granted was in region of 1-2 years. This _might_ be reasonable in some cases.