EU Council endorses patent bill

Opponents say measure will stifle innovation. Will the European Parliament agree? The ball's in its court now. Photos: Patent protesters take to the streets

The EU Council has approved a controversial proposal on software patents, despite opposition from numerous software developers and some European countries.

The European Council adopted the software patent directive on Monday, despite requests from Denmark, Poland and Portugal to reject the directive.


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Protesters march
in Brussels

An EU Council representative said Monday morning that the Computer Implemented Inventions Directive had been adopted but was unable to give more details.

As it now stands, the directive would legalize software patents. Supporters say the directive would protect research and development investments by European companies. Opponents say it would stifle innovation.

According to Florian Mueller, an antipatent campaigner who watched the public part of the meeting, a minister from Luxembourg said the directive is being adopted to ensure that the council adheres to its processes and thus avoid creating problems for other directives.

"We are adopting the position for institutional reasons, so as not to create a precedent which might have a consequence of creating future delays in other processes," the minister said, according to Mueller.

Last week, it was reported that Denmark would attempt to have the directive listed as a B-item, rather than an A-item, allowing the text to be renegotiated.

The Luxembourg minister acknowledged that Denmark, Poland and Portugal would have preferred the directive to be listed as a B-item, according to Mueller. The directive now moves to the European Parliament, which can reject or amend the proposal, for a second reading.

The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) accused the EU Council of ignoring the views of both the national parliaments that spoke out against the directive and the European Parliament, which demanded that the directive be restarted.

"This is a very sad day for democracy and casts a very dark shadow over the European Constitution, which will give the council even more power," the FFII said in a statement.

Hugo Lueders, the director of public policy at pro-patent organization CompTIA, said he is pleased that the council has adopted the directive. He said software patents are needed to ensure that the European Union can stick to the goals set by the Lisbon Agenda--that the EU will become the world's most competitive and dynamic knowledge-driven economy by 2010.

"We think this directive is overdue," said Lueders. "It's extremely urgent to proceed with the Lisbon Agenda, of which this directive is a key element."

Ingrid Marson of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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