|| ||Henrion Benjamin <bh-AT-udev.org>|
|| ||Software Patents: EU Council Plans to Scrap Parliamentary Vote without Discussion|
|| ||Sun, 9 May 2004 16:59:10 +0200 (CEST)|
EU Council Plans to Scrap Parliamentary Vote without Discussion
For immediate Release
The EU Council of Ministers is demonstrating that the concept of
democracy is alien to the EU. This Wednesday, the Irish Presidency
managed to secure a qualified majority for a counter-proposal to the
software patents directive, with only a few countries - including
Belgium and Germany - showing resistance. The new text proposes to
discard all the amendments from the European which would limite
patentability. Instead the lax language of the original Commission
proposal is to be reinstated in its entirety, with direct patentability
of computer programs, data structures and process descriptions added as
icing on the cake. The proposal is now scheduled to be confirmed without
discussion at a meeting of ministers on 17-18 May, unless one of the
Member States changes its vote. In a remarkable sign of unity in times
of imminent elections, members of the European Parliament from all
groups across the political spectrum are condemning this blatant
disrespect for democracy in Europe.
Proposals slammed by MEPs from all sides
Anne Van Lancker (MEP, BE, PES): Parliament Overruled by Patent
Anne Van Lancker, a Belgian MEP of the Socialist group, notes that the
civil servants who are supposed to abide by this directive are now the
ones who can write their own laws:
The Council not only ignores the European Parliament in this matter, but
adds to the insult by going even further than the Commission: in
addition to making the usage of patented algorithms and business methods
in computer programs an infringement, they also propose to forbid their
publication, by allowing direct claims to information entities (also
known as "program claims").
Given that the current Council proposal was written behind closed doors
by patent office administrators, this unworldly outcome should not
surprise anyone, unfortunately.
Piia-Noora Kauppi (MEP, FI, EPP-DE): Council Ignores Elected Representatives
Piia-Noora Kauppi, Finnish MEP of the European People's Party, expresses
dismay at the Council Working Party's contempt for parliamentary democracy:
As the Council is trying to look for a compromise with the European
Parliament on the proposal for patenting of computer-implemented
innovations (software patents), it should base its work on the final
decision taken by the plenary session of the Parliament, not on that of
the Commission or of the Legal Affairs Committee. Judging from the
papers produced so far by the Council's working party, it seems that the
Council is not taking the will of Europe's elected legislators into
Pernille Frahm (MEP, DK, GUE): Council and Commission Failed to do
Pernille Frahm, Danish member and Vice-Chairwoman of the GUE/NGL group,
finds that the European Commission and Council are abusing their
functions and failing to play their role in EU legislation:
The patent administrators in the Commission and Council are abusing the
legislative process of the EU.
Their convoluted and misleading Patent Newspeak, negotiated in
intransparent backroom dealings, is an insult to the European
Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of
Regions and the innumerable experts and stakeholders who have engaged in
serious investigations on this directive project with us. Not only did
the Commission and Council fail to do their own homework, they are now
also attempting to throw away all the hard work that the elected
legislators did for them, without even trying to respond to the concerns
which have been raised.
Daniel Cohn-Bendit (MEP, FR, VERD): Patent Administrators Not
Interested in "Harmonisation and Clarification"
Daniel Cohn-Bendit, chairman of the Greens/EFA Group adds:
The Council working party has so far completely failed to address the
problems which the European Parliament's Cultural and Industrial Affairs
committees tried to solve. They behave in the same way as the Legal
Affairs Committee behaved last year, and we can expect that they will
fail in the same way.
It is clear that the national patent officials in the Council do not
want "harmonisation" or "clarification". They merely want to secure the
interests of the patent establishment. If they don't get what they want,
they simply bury the directive project and try to find other ways to get
around the existing law, whose clarity is so painful to them.
Bent Hindrup Andersen (MEP, DK, EDD): Council Moves Highlight Lack
of Democracy in the EU
Bent Hindrup Andersen MEP of the Danish June Movement and the EDD Group
draws attention to the lack of democracy in the EU which is exemplified
by the Commission's and Council's behaviour:
The approach of the Commission and Council in this directive is
shocking. They are making full use of all the possibilities of evading
democracy that the current Community Law provides. First they ignored
94% of the participants of their own consultation, without given any
justification apart from the claim that the remaining 6% represented the
"economic majority". Now they are completely disregarding the vote of
the European Parliament, and by the way also of the Economic and Social
Council and of the Council of Regions. They are doing this because they
are used to succede by doing this. The EU is constructed this way. It
makes unaccountable bureaucrats the masters of legislation. The problem
is compounded by the complete lack of democratic checks and balances in
the European patent system. EU and Patents combine into a particularly
toxic mixture. Europe's citizens urgently need to take up this issue and
learn the lessons before it is too late. They should in particular not
allow this kind of structure to be perpetuated by a European
Constitution this year.
Johanna Boogerd-Quaak (MEP, NL, ELDR): Irish Presidencey Protecting US
Companies from EU Competition
Johanna Boogerd-Quaak, a Dutch member of the European Liberal, Democrat
and Reform Party, indicates that Ireland seems to be playing lapdog for
I'm under the impression that the Irish Presidency has buckled under the
interests of American Companies. A handful of big American Companies may
actually profit from software patents, but it is a very bad deal for
innovation in European SMEs. Additionally, the Council is showing
contempt for parliamentary democracy. We must make sure that after the
elections there will again be a majority in the European Parliament that
is willing to show its teeth.
Call for Action II
More than 20 parliamentarians have signed a Call for Action
which points out that "patent professionals in various governments and
organisations are now trying to use the EU Council of Ministers in order
to sidestep parliamentary democracy in the European Union" and urges the
Council to "refrain from any counter-proposals to the European Parliament's
version of the draft, unless such counter-proposals have been explicitely
endorsed by a majority decision of the member's national parliament".
The powerful COREPER committee of EU member states' Permanent
Representatives in Brussels has provisionally agreed on a new draft for
the controversial Software Patent directive, overruling opposition from
Germany, Belgium, Denmark and Slovakia.
The new draft rejects all of the European Parliament's limiting
amendments, and is described by FFII as "the most uncompromisingly
pro-patent text yet".
Technically, the decision by COREPER on Wednesday is only a "forecast"
of the final decision, to be confirmed at the Competitiveness Council of
Ministers on 17-18 May. Until that date, Member states can still change
their minds (and their votes).
Support for the text at a political level in some states is still said
to be quite soft; and decisions brokered in Coreper do fall apart (last
year's discussions on the Community Patent, for example).
The Coreper text goes further than the text of the European Commission
of 2002 in legalising software patents. In 2002 the Commission had
agreed, in difficult negotiations between DG Internal Market
(Bolkestein) and DG Informations Societey (Liikanen) not to allow
program claims. Now it seems that DG Information Society has rolled over
to the united pressure of Bolkestein and the Council's patent
A leaked document from Bolkestein's DG Internal Market
suggests that DG Information Society no longer objects to program claims.
This concession by Liikanen is needed in order to rush the Council working
group proposal through the ministers' session as an "A item", i.e. a
consensus point which does not need any discussion by the ministers.
For next week, the FFII is calling for another net strike and a wave of
local events and demonstrations <http://kwiki.ffii.org/SwpDemo0405En>.
Even these days people are demonstrating with banners near the offices
of the Commission.
More Background Information
* The Council proposal documents 8253/04 and 8253/04 ADD from April
6 are not accessible "due to the sensitive nature of the
negotiations and the absence of an overriding public interest"
according to the Council's General Secretariat.
written to the Consilium's General Secretariat, appealing the
refusal to publish the 6 April documents.
* We have provided a thorough analysis of the latest Council "compromise".
The latest version was leaked to us and is accessible through the
"Annotated Links" section.
* A leaked document from the Austrian Ministry of Technology
exemplifies the decisionmaking behind the Council's proposal.
Austrian MEPs of all parties had mostly voted in favor of the
Parliament's amendments. Othmar Karas, head of the Austrian
People's Party in the EP, had written to the Minister of Technology
asking him not to support the Council position, but did not receive
any reply. Instead the ministry left all decisions to its patent office,
which has always been a 100% follower of the European Patent Office.
* The Irish Presidency explains on its website that it is sponsored
by Microsoft. Ireland is "the largest software-exporting country
in Europe", thanks to a fiscal policy which makes it a tax haven for
large US companies: it has a tax rate on patent revenues of 0%.
* More recent news <http://kwiki.ffii.org/SwpatcninoEn>
media-help at ffii org
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Jonas Maebe +32-485-36-96-45 (Dutch/English)
Erik Josefsson +46-707-696567 (Swedish/English)
Thierry Coutelier +352 406776 (French/German/English)
Benjamin Henrion +32-498-292771 (French/English)
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James Heald +44 778910 7539 (English)
More Contacts to be supplied upon request
About the FFII -- www.ffii.org
The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) is a
non-profit association registered in Munich, which is dedicated to the
spread of data processing literacy. FFII supports the development of
public information goods based on copyright, free competition, open
standards. More than 400 members, 1000 companies and 60000 supporters
have entrusted the FFII to act as their voice in public policy questions
in the area of exclusion rights (intellectual property) in data processing.
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