|| ||Henrion Benjamin <bh-AT-udev.org>|
|| ||EU Software Patents: motion in the European Parliament for restarting the entire legislative process|
|| ||Mon, 10 Jan 2005 14:07:03 +0100|
EU Software Patents: motion in the European Parliament
for restarting the entire legislative process
61 MEPs from 13 different countries introduce motion -- Restart of legislative
process requested on grounds of new elections, EU extension, and changed
circumstances -- Procedural step would also represent "a face-saving exit
strategy for the EU Council"
Brussels (10 January 2005). The EU's legislative process on a software patent
directive continues to be eventful. Just before Christmas, the Polish
government surprisingly delayed a decision in the EU Council. Strong support
now building up in the European Parliament for an initiative to restart the
entire legislative process. 61 MEPs (Members of the European Parliament), from
13 different countries and 4 political groups, have introduced a motion to ask
the EU Commission for resubmitting a legislative proposal, which means to go
back to square one. The group of signatories is led by former Polish prime
minister Jerzy Buzek, and includes other high-profile politicians, among them
three vice presidents of the European Parliament, multiple members of group
committee leaderships, and a former EU Commissioner. The complete list was
published today on www.NoSoftwarePatents.com, a pan-European campaign Website.
The EU Commission had already highlighted the possibility of parliament
restarting this legislative process in a statement published on its Website
last summer. In this scenario, the EU Parliament would have a new first
reading, and the EU Council would again be free to negotiate a "Common
Position" on the directive. The EU Council could still change its position in
the ongoing process because it has not formally adopted it yet, but countries
are now informally bound to a political agreement of 18 May 2004.
"A majority of today's MEPs didn't get to participate in the first reading in
2003, and the governments of the new member states were barely finding their
seats in the Council last May", said Florian Mueller, manager of the
NoSoftwarePatents.com campaign. "This issue is controversial, complex, and so
very critical to Europe's future. A total restart is also a face-saving exit
strategy for the Council, which is caught between a rock and a hard place
because it would either have to depart from an unwritten diplomatic code and
renegotiate its position now, or it would have to decide against all
Mueller pointed out that his campaign also strives for a maximum of legal
certainty but that he is "absolutely unaware of any problems for legitimate
patent holders in the current situation", so he believes Europe should assign
higher priority to finding the right decision than to rushing this process.
there is any category of patents that are difficult to enforce in Europe right
now, then we're talking about those shady software patents that nobody says he
wants and that some say don't even exist." The European Patent Convention
explicity excludes patents on computer programs, but an estimated number of
more than 30,000 such patents have been granted in Europe nonetheless.
Internet Addresses of Relevant Documents
Lists of signatories (by country and by political group):
Commented version of EU Commission's statement on restart possibility:
Procedural Background Information
Under Rule 55 of its Rules of Procedure, the European Parliament may request a
restart of a legislative process under certain circumstances. That request can
come from the committee in charge (first paragraph of the rule), or
alternatively result from a plenary vote (fourth paragraph). The European
Parliament is looking at both procedural options here.
The motion bases the request for a restart upon two facts:
- New European elections have taken place since the original first reading in
the European Parliament in 2003. Due to the elections in June and the EU
extension in May of 2004, a majority of today's MEPs did not get to
participate in the first reading.
- The motion also stresses that "there have been substantial changes in the
nature of the subject to which the proposed directive relates". Either one
the two reasons would be sufficient on its own to invoke Rule 55.
Restarting a legislative process after elections routinely happens in various
parliaments, such as the German Bundestag. The technical term for the
is "discontinuity". In the current legislative term of the European
the "directive on the patentability of computer-implemented inventions" would
be the first, and quite likely the only, case in which the principle of
discontinuity is applied.
On the subject of changed circumstances, the motion particularly cites
patent-related implications to IT infrastructure decisions by public
administrations. Last summer, the city of Munich had temporarily suspended its
Linux migration project over patent infringement fears. The project was
resumed, but the city administration was advised by a local law firm to demand
that its IT vendors and service-providers hold the city harmless of patent
litigation costs and indemnities. To the dismay of the city administration,
this would preclude small and medium-sized businesses from successfully
for contracts. Furthermore, on November 18th, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer had
warned Asian governments that they would face patent litigation if using the
Linux operating system instead of Microsoft's Windows product.
About the NoSoftwarePatents.com Campaign
The NoSoftwarePatents.com campaign was launched on October 20th in initially
languages and is supported by three IT companies (1&1, Red Hat, and MySQL AB).
More information on the campaign is available on the campaign Web site.
For further information concerning this announcement or the
NoSoftwarePatents.com campaign, please contact:
Campaign Manager, NoSoftwarePatents.com
telephone +49 (8151) 651850
to post comments)