Software patents law up in the air after Poland pull out

Poland’s decision not to support a political agreement on the
highly controversial software patents directive means the bill has
an uncertain future.

A May 2004 political agreement on the highly controversial
software patents directive (see EURACTIV, 19 May 2004) is hanging in the balance
after Poland said it was unable to support it. 

“Poland cannot support the text that was agreed upon by the EU
Council on May 18th, 2004,” the Polish government announced on 16
November.

The text is scheduled for formal adoption without debate (an ‘A’
point) when EU ministers meet at the Competitiveness Council on 25
and 26 November. But without Poland’s support, the directive’s
approval would fall short of a majority by 16 votes, anti-patent
campaigners have claimed in a forecast analysis. This is due to a change in the voting weights in the
Council of Ministers deriving from the Nice Treaty which entered
into force on 1 November. The forecast also assumes countries which
voted against or abstained in May would still vote in the same
way.

The Commission and the Dutch presidency had hoped that the bill
could be referred to Parliament in December but this process could
now be stalled unless the bill is modified to take account of
Poland’s and other countries’ concerns (for more background, see
EURACTIV, 11 May 2004).

In a first reading last year, the Parliament had proposed a
series of 120 amendments to the Commission’s initial text, designed
at limiting the scope of the directive to “”new, non-obvious”
inventions which have possible industrial applications. But the
amendments were subsequently rejected by EU ministers at their May
2004 meeting (see EURACTIV, 19 May 2004).

If voted on, the bill would have to go back to Parliament for a
second reading.

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