Europeans, like citizens of much of the "free world," have a certain
tendency toward smugness when software patents are discussed. Software
patents, after all, are an American problem. Unfortunately, the U.S. is
quite good at exporting its problems. Software patents in Europe took
another step toward reality this week when the Legal Affairs Committee of
the European Parliament voted in favor of an EU-wide software patent
scheme. The 20-8 committee vote adopted the proposed directive, as
written by the European Commission, almost without changes.
The proposal is said to be more restrictive than the American version of
software patents. Patentable technologies would have to be useful in a
particular setting and application; simply having a program is not enough.
And business models still would not be subject to patents. But the
proposed directive is still enough to raise widespread concern throughout
Europe. The Greens were quite
clear on what they think:
The Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament today
adopted a report that allows for the unlimited patenting of
software which will, in one swoop, entrench the market dominance of
multinational companies, force small software firms out of business
and bring to an end the European free software movement.
There is also this
release from the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure,
which contains quotes from a number of European business figures.
The sad truth is that software patents have done great harm in the U.S.,
and they are unlikely to be more beneficial in Europe. This is one import
the EU could do without.
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