Wednesday, July 6, 2005
The European Parliament has rejected the directive on the patentability of computer-implemented inventions (software patent directive) sustained by lobbies of large software publicists such as the corporations Microsoft, Siemens, Nokia and Alcatel, grouped under the title of the European Information & Communications Technology Industry Association (EICTA, ). The directive involved the granting of software patents.
648 MEPs out of 680 rejected the text, 18 voted for and 14 abstained.
A rejection vote became the expected outcome when the European People’s Party, initially in favour of the directive, decided to reject it.
The European Greens, Socialist Group and European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party also voted for rejection of the directive for heterogeneous reason. Michel Rocard, author of a number of amendments to the original directive, said that the majority of the modifications were unlikely to be supported by the Commission and Council, with whom the Parliament would have had to enter a Conciliation procedure if it had voted for maintaining the directive in moditifed form. “Better have no text at all than a bad one”, he added.
Before the vote, Rocard pointed at the irritation of the Parliament towards the Commission: “There is collective anger throughout the Parliament because of the way the directive was handled by the Commission and the Council”.
During the debate on Tuesday, Commissioner Joaquín Almunia told MEPs: “Should you decide to reject the common position, the Commission will not submit a new proposal.”.
The rejection was welcomed by small and medium software companies, as well as by Free Software supporters. The Directive had been subject to an intense campaigning, within the Parliament, in the news media and on the Internet. The supporters of the Council position appear to have spent several ten millions, hiring prestigious PR agencies with at least 30-40 lobbyists who roamed the halls of the Parliament every day for 3 months, and many full-page advertisements in EU newspapers such as European Voice, EU Reporter etc. The opponents of software patentability (that is supporters of the position taken by the European Parliament in its 1st reading of 24 September 2003), coordinated under the roof of the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII), also had several lobbyists stationed in Brussels, conducted several conferences and demonstrations and published some newspaper advertisements, with a total budget of nearly 100,000 eur apart from countless unpaid working hours of a dedicated supporter base, consisting mainly of programmers and software entrepreneurs.