European Parliament says No to software patents

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Strasbourg, 6 July 2005 -- The European Parliament today decided by a large majority (729 members (of which 689 signed that day's attendance register), 680 votes, 648 in favour, 14 against, 18 abstaining [*]) to reject the directive "on the patentability of computer implemented inventions", also known as the software patent directive. This rejection was the logical answer to the Commission's refusal to restart the legislative process in February and the Council's reluctance to take the will of the European Parliament and national parliaments into account. The FFII congratulates the European Parliament on its clear "No" to bad legislative proposals and procedures.

This is a great victory for those who have campaigned to ensure that European innovation and competitiveness is protected from monopolisation of software functionalities and business methods. It marks the end of an attempt by the European Commission and governmental patent officials to impose detrimental and legally questionable practises of the European Patent Office (EPO) on the member states. However, the problems created by these practices remain unsolved. FFII believes that the Parliament's work, in particular the 21 cross-party compromise amendments, can provide a good basis on which future solutions, both at the national and European level, can build.

Rejection provides breathing space for new initiatives based on all the knowledge gained during the last five years. All institutions are now fully aware of the concerns of all stakeholders. However, the fact that the Council Common Position needs 21 amendments in order to be transformed into a coherent piece of legislation indicates that the text is simply not ready to enter the Conciliation between Parliament, Commission and Council. We hope the Commission and Council will at least respond to the concerns raised by Parliament the next time, in order to avoid this sort of backlash in the future.

Jonas Maebe, FFII Board Member, comments on the outcome of today's vote:

This result clearly shows that thorough analysis, genuinely concerned citizens and factual information have more impact than free ice-cream, boatloads of hired lobbyists and outsourcing threats. I hope this turn of events can give people new faith in the European decision making process. I also hope that it will encourage the Council and Commission to model after the European Parliament in terms of transparency and the ability of stakeholders to participate in the decision-making process irrespective of their size.

Hartmut Pilch, president of FFII, explains why FFII supported the move for rejection in its voting recommendations:

|In recent days, the big holders of EPO-granted software patents and their MEPs, who had previously been campaigning for the Council's "Common Position", joined the call for rejection of the directive because it became clear that the 21 cross-party amendments championed by Roithová, Buzek, Rocard, Duff and others were very likely to be adopted by the Parliament. It was well noticeable that support for all most of these amendments was becoming the mainstream opinion in all political groups. Yet there would not have been much of a point in such a vote. We rather agree to the assessment of the situation as given by Othmar Karas MEP in the Plenary yesterday: a No was the only logical answer to the unconstructive attitude and legally questionable maneuvers of the Commission and Council, by which this so-called Common Position had come about in the first place.|

The FFII wishes to thank all those people who have taken the time to contact their representatives. We also thank the numerous volunteers who have so generously given their time and energy. This is your victory as well as the Parliament's.



Currently, Parliament is supposed to have 732 members, but this is often less due to not yet replaced outgoing members. Incidentally, Jürgen Zimmerling (PPE-DE/DE) became the 730th member on this very day, but is not mentioned in the attendance register (let alone that day's votes). It is thus not clear whether the required number of votes for an absolute majority (called qualified majority in Parliament) that day was 365, 366 or 367.

After the vote, three people corrected their vote to in favour,

making the final count 651-12-18 in favour of rejection.

Additionally, Kurt Joachim Lauk made a statement of financial interests under Annex I to the Rules of Procedure and had not voted, which means that he was counted as a supporter of the Council's "Common Position".


Background Information

Contact Information

About FFII -- http://www.ffii.org

The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) is a non-profit association registered in several European countries, which is dedicated to the spread of data processing literacy. The FFII supports the development of public information goods based on copyright, free competition, open standards. More than 3,000 companies and 90,000 individuals have entrusted the FFII to act as their voice in public policy questions concerning software copyright and patents. The FFII maintains an office in Brussels and national sections in many countries.

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