JURI discusses Rocard's report on software patents
Brussels, 21 April 2005 -- The European Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) has discussed the report of Michel Rocard MEP, the Parliament's rapporteur for the directive, about the software patent directive. Two days earlier Mr Rocard had delivered the report, which is notable for its clarity since in a few pages it explains the complex issue in an enlightening way.
Mr. Rocard's report, titled "Note on the patentability of software and of computer controlled inventions", presents the basic problem: should software be pantented? If not, how to define a clear limit which would exclude software from patentability while devices controlled or assisted by software means would still be patentable? Finally, the report proceeds to address every important detail of the directive (title, definition of technicity, compatibility with TRIPS, form of claims and interoperability), arriving to conclusions that are very similar in spirit to the Parliament's first reading.
During today's JURI meeting, the room was full of pro-software-patent lobbyists who made their preferences audible by sneering and laughing. The presence of these lobbyists, who all come from the big industry, has been very intense the last few weeks at the Parliament, whereas the voice of the !SMEs is barely heard.
Despite the heavy lobbying, few MEPs opposed Rocard's approach. Among those who particularly agreed were Piia-Noora Kauppi (PPE), Maria Berger (PSE), and Eva Lichtenberger (Greens). At the end of the meeting, Rocard said he was satisfied with the debate and that he agreed with 90% of what the others had said.
JURI will take its final decision on June 20th, followed by the Parliament's plenary vote around 6 July.
Harmut Pilch, President of the FFII:
- Rocard's outline contains all the necessary ingredients for a directive that achieves what most member state governments say they want to achieve: to exclude computer programs from patentability while allowing computer-controlled technical inventions to be patented. Already in the title of his paper, Rocard proposes to replace the misleading term "computer-implemented inventions" by "computer-controlled inventions", and the report itself goes to the heart of the matter. Rocard explains the difference between applied natural science and data processing, and, from there solves the legislative problem in a consistent and adequate manner, delivering what programmers, economists and the vast majority of companies in software and related industries want to see. It is unusual for an economist and former French prime minister to take up a fairly special, difficult-to-communicate problem with such seriousness and moral courage. Perhaps Rocard is showing here the same qualities that won him fame as the peacemaker of New Caledonia. In any case, the contrast with the evasiveness of the Council's patent bureaucrats could not be greater. If the MEPs can vote for Michel Rocard's amendments in June and July, the Parliament will then, in the ensuing Conciliation procedure, be able to negotiate with the Council from a position of strength.
Gérald Sédrati-Dinet, vice president of FFII:
- JURI seems to agree with Rocard's view, which makes us hope that good amendments will be proposed.
Benjamin Henrion, FFII Member:
- It is clear that the big industry has started turbo lobbying since several days, In the room, the number of pro-patent lobbyists from all big firms was also quite impressive, and I'm afraid of the influence they can have on some MEPs. The small enterprises and independent developers need to wake up as soon as possible.
- Jonas Maebe jmaebe at ffii org tel. +32 (0)485 36 96 45 Hartmut Pilch phm at ffii org tel. +49 (0) 89 18979927 Gérald Sédrati-Dinet gibus at ffii fr tel. +33 6 60 56 36 45 Dieter Van Uytvanck dietvu at ffii org tel. +31 (0)6 275 879 10
About the FFII
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. FFII supports the development of public information goods based on copyright, free competition, open standards. More than 500 members, 1,200 companies and 80,000 supporters have entrusted the FFII to act as their voice in public policy questions concerning exclusion rights (intellectual property) in data processing.