Important victory in struggle against software patents

10 February 2005

Important victory in struggle against software patents

The SP yesterday scored an important victory in the battle to stop what have become known as frivolous or trivial patents. By 71 votes to 69, a motion proposed by SP Member of Parliament Arda Gerkens was adopted. The motion called on the secretary of state to oppose a vote on the proposed directive at the EU Council of Ministers until it is clear that the matter will be sent back to the Commission for reconsideration and the legislative procedure begun anew.

Last year the European Commission came into conflict with the European Parliament when it rejected all of the assembly’s amendments of its proposed directive on software patents. In the form proposed, such patents would kill innovation in software stone dead.

Small firms and software developers would not be able to find either the money or the time to patent their discoveries. Moreover, the development of open source software would become even more difficult. In America things have already moved in this direction, with major firms preferring to invest their resources in seeking patents rather than developing innovative software.

By supporting the SP motion the ’Tweede Kamer’, the Dutch equivalent of the British House of Commons or U.S. House of Representatives, has given the European Parliament, which would like to see a complete rethink leading to a new proposal, its support. It is expected that the Parliament, which unlike the Commission is elected by the people of the 25 EU member states, will ask the latter body to withdraw the current text. EU governments, however, support the existing wording. The success of Ms Gerkens’ motion has therefore rather upset the applecart, because the Tweede Kamer vote has made it clear that the most important elected body representing the Dutch people is not prepared to see the measure pass through the EU Council of Ministers on the nod. If the President of the European Commission nevertheless proposes its inclusion on the agenda of the next meeting, the government of the Netherlands must, according to the country’s parliament, vote against.

Arda GerkensMs Gerkens said:
“This is an important step in the struggle against frivolous or trivial patents. If this directive goes through then it will mean the death of software development in Europe and the of innovation in the Netherlands. I’m very pleased with this victory, but the struggle is far from over.”

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