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2004-07-15 DE Ministry of Economics launches new survey about software patents

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The German ministry of economics and labour has launched a survey among enterprises that asks them about their view of patentability of software and especially about the impact on interoperability.

*Short results from the study here please

This survey comes 2 yers after a partially similar survey that was carried out by two think tanks with close affiliations to the patent lobby and yet showed great disinterest and antipathy of the german software industry toward software patents. The present survey is worded in less biased terms than the one of two years ago. E.g. it does not use the patent newspeak terminology of "computer-implemented inventions" but rather a language that software professionals understand, including the word "software patents" which the Ministry of Justice officially claims to be a misguided word.

In May the ministry of justice, which is in charge of representing Germany in the EU Council, broke a promise which it had given to the public at large as well as to the governing coalition and to an interministerial working group, in which the Ministry of Economics participates, and voted for a version of the EU software patent directive proposal that removes all limits on patentability and patent enforcability, including those related to interoperability, that the European Parliament had voted for in september 2003. While the Ministry of Economics has remained silent or even, when asked for comment, publicly defended the action of their colleagues from the Ministry of Justice, there is hardly any doubt that they feel freer than before to act on their own. At a recent meeting in Ruegen with a renowned german economics institute they prepared a new effort at studying the problem.

See the german version for more details on the survey.

Meanwhile the qualified majority behind the Council's decision no longer exists and Germany is one of the countries whose representatives opted for patent lobby interests instead of their government's agreed interests. The Parliament is facing a motion by the opposition Liberal Democratic Party to officially withdraw the government's support from the Council agreement, and !MPs from both parties of the governing coalition seem to be broadly in favor of the motion. After the Netherlands, Germany might be the second country to drop out of the qualified majority.

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