Council vote on software patents postponed until Irish Presidency

The Italian Presidency has taken a last-minute decision not to put the software patents directive on the Competitiveness Council agenda. The directive will now be examined under the upcoming Irish Presidency in 2004.

Following Parliament's vote on the directive on the Patentability of Computer-Implemented Inventions (CII) on 24 September 2003 (seeEuractiv 25 September), attention is now focusing on the Council to approve or amend Parliament's position in first reading. After the heated debate that surrounded Parliament's vote, the Italian Presidency took a last-minute decision not to put the issue on this week's Competitiveness Council agenda. The directive will be examined during the upcoming Irish Presidency in the first half of 2004 before a second reading in Parliament.

Many of the amendments that were approved in Parliament appeared to be a victory for critics of the proposal. They fear that it would stifle innovation by granting too much power to large companies. The Parliament took their views on board and said it had tried to avoid "any drift towards the patentability of unpatentable methods such as trivial procedures and business methods." The Commission's original proposal aimed at harmonising the way software patents are granted throughout the Member States, thereby ensuring greater legal certainty.

In a statement released this week, the technology industry association EICTA called on the Council to "distance itself" from Parliament's vote in first reading. If the Council were to fail to do this, EICTA would rather see the Commission withdraw its proposal altogether. EICTA argues that the Parliament's version of the directive would dramatically reduce patent protection for computer-implemented inventions. This option is seriously being considered by Commissioner Bolkestein who has threatened to withdraw the Commission's proposal if the "unacceptable" amendments were passed by Parliament.


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