[Fsfe-ie] FW: Re: Software Patents in the European Union

ian at dodo.freenetproject.org ian at dodo.freenetproject.org
Fri Jun 4 18:25:22 CEST 2004

This strikes me as being rather worrying since she seems to be happy with
the Council's text even though the UK LibDems are supposed to be anti-swpat.

I am on the road at the moment so it isn't a good time for me to draft a
reply, but I would appreciate any comments which I can incorporate when I
get back home next week.


Original Message:
From: Elspeth   Attwooll EAttwooll at europarl.eu.int
Date: Fri, 04 Jun 2004 14:16:29 +0200
To: ian at locut.us
Subject: Re: Software Patents in the European Union

Dear Mr Clarke

Further to our correspondence on the proposed EU Directive on the
patentability of computer-implemented inventions, I wanted to update you
following the adoption of the common position, and outline our position on
software patents. 

We addressed this issue in the Liberal Democrat IT policy paper "Making IT
Work" which was adopted at our Spring Conference in 2003. This made it
clear that we would "support continued widespread innovation in software by
resisting the wider application of patents in this area."   The LibDems are
in favour of increased legal certainty in the EU; a balance needs to be
struck between the needs of small business on the one hand, to protect
their inventions - and big business, on the other, from patenting
everything to the exclusion of competitors.  This has guided our approach
to the legislation during its passage through the European Parliament.

The European Parliament voted its first reading on the proposal in
September 2003 where amendments were adopted to strictly limit patents to
new inventions only.  The Parliament's position would harmonise current
practice in the European Patents Office, and ensure that patents in the
field of computer engineering would be issued on the same basis in all EU
Member States.  Specifically, the UK Liberal Democrats supported an
amendment to the definition, so that "In order to be patentable, a
computer-implemented invention must be susceptible of industrial
application and new and involve an inventive step.  In order to involve an
inventive step, a computer-implemented invention must make a technical

More recently, as you will know, the Council of Ministers adopted its
common position on 18 May 2004.  This is the text of the legislation as
Government Ministers wish to see it adopted.  The Council has specifically
excluded a computer program, as such, from constituting a patentable
invention.  It has also accepted the Parliament's amendment (above) as the
Condition of Patentablity. 

I hope this will allay your concerns.  
Yours sincerely,
Elspeth Attwooll 

>>> Ian Clarke <ian at locut.us> 05/19/04 08:30 >>>
Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing to all of my Scottish MEPs to enquire as to your opinion 
concerning yesterday's successful approval of the Irish Presidency's 
version of the software patents directive by the Council of Ministers.

Having listened with interest to the recording of the debate, it is 
clear that while concerns were raised as to the potential for this 
directive to harm innovation and competition in Europe, the final text 
completely fails to address these concerns substantively.

In particular, a number of member states seem to have been mislead as to 
the effect of a German amendment which was modified after it had been 
circulated (this modification effectively rendered the amendment 
complete inert).

This and other brazenly underhanded tactics appear to have been 
effective in pushing through a text which fails to address any of the 
concerns that were addressed by the amendments made by the European 
Parliament in September 2003.

It is not an exaggeration to say that this episode has shaken my faith 
in the European Union, and should be troubling to anyone that cares 
about democracy in Europe, irrespective of their position on software 
patents.  It is nothing less than an affront to the ability of our 
directly elected representatives to influence the laws passed at the 
European level.

I would like you ask whether you share my concerns, and what action, if 
any, you will take to address this issue.  Needless to say, this will 
have a significant bearing on my vote in the upcoming European 
elections, not to mention the votes of many of my peers.

In conclusion, I would like to quote from a transcript of yesterday's 
vote, I think it nicely illustrates the confusion caused by the 
modification to the German amendment, and the way that this confusion 
was exploited to push the text through:

----begin quote---

(14:40) IT: We are ready to vote in favour of the compromise proposal of 
the Irish presidency and over the proposals of the Commission. There is 
only one misunderstanding that we wish to see cleared. We have said that 
we agreed on the German proposal on the meaning of technical 
contribution, but we had meant the original German proposal. Now, I see 
that the Germans have left the last two sentences of their proposal and 
whilst the first two sentences might be left out without particularly 
constituting any change, the last sentence - "processing, handling, 
presentation etc do not belong to a technical field, even where 
technological devices are employed for such purposes - that sentence we 
think is essential, if we are to give our agreement to the German text. 
So we would want that sentence to be included again. If you could change 
it in that way, we will be able to vote in favour of the Presidency's 
and Commission's compromise proposal. We will be unable to accept the 
Commission's proposal, in other words. (abstention)

(16:50) Bolkestein: President, it seems to me that the German amendment 
as I read it out before the short break is clear enough, does not need 
any additions to it. My advice to the Council would be to take it as 
amended by the commission in a very slight, technical way by the 
Commission. I hope that this won't stand in the way of minister 
Buttiglione voting in favour, but one again I think that the German 
proposal is a good one and that we should stick it apart from this 
slight technical change that I proposed.


# IE: And Denmark? Can I hear from Denmark please?
# Denmark: I would really ask to commission whether they couldn't fix 
the last sentence put forward by Italy. It was in the original German 
# (19:13) IE: I think the Commissioner already answered that question, 
I'm sorry Denmark. So are you yes, no, abstain?
# DK: I think we wouldn't, we're not hap...
# IE: Can I assume you're a "yes"?
# DK: We're not happy
# IE: But are you 80% happy?
# DK: But... I think we...
# IE: We don't need you you to be totally happy. None of us are totally 
# DK: I know that, I know that.
# IE: If we were, we wouldn't be here
# DK: I think we're not very happy, but I think we would, we would...
# IE: Thank you very much
# DK: ... we would like to see a solution today.

---end of quote---

Yours Sincerely,

Ian Clarke,
Managing Director,
Cematics Ltd

16/2 Mill Lane

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