MEPs explain state of play at FFII press conference

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17 February 2005 -- The FFII conducted a press conference in Renaissance Hotel in Brussels starting with a lunch at 12:30. Parliamentarians who have been deeply involved in the struggle between Commission/Council and elected legislators comment on today's decision of the Conference of Presidents and what it means for the future of the software patent directive project.

Speeches and answers to questions by members of Parliament and FFII experts

The conference was attended by Brussels correspondents of various newspapers, including New York Times and International Herald Tribune, as well as by correspondents from news agencies.

Speeches were given by Jerzy Buzek (MEP, Polish prime minister 1997-2001, co-initiator of the restart motion), Arda Gerkens, Alain Lipietz (French Green MEP interested in intellectual property questions), Florian Müller ( and Erik Josefsson of FFII.

Jerzy Buzek announced that he was very happy with the fact that the Conference of Presidents had unanimously decided to submit the request for a restart of the directive to the European Commission. He is convinced the best way for the new European Parliament to quickly wrap up this troublesome directive, is by starting its work based on the outcome of the first reading of the previous EP. This way, they can profit from all the work which has already been performed. He proposed a time frame of about 12 months for a new first reading.

Arda Gerkens explained how after being misinformed, the Dutch Parliament approved a motion asking the government to no longer support the Council's 18 May 2004 text. She noted how the government creatively interpreted this motion reducing it to a powerless statement, and thanked the Polish government for repeatedly delaying the approval of the A-item in the Council.

These delays enabled the Dutch Parliament to have a second chance at positively influencing the process, which it did by approving a second motion last week. This second motion asks the government to prevent an adoption of the directive as an A-item at the Council until the Commission has replied to the European Parliament's restart request.

Alain Lipietz explained how the Greens have opposed this directive from the start. He also noted that while they supported many of the amendments approved by the European Parliament in its previous first reading, several loose ends still have to be tied up, such as for example the title and article 1. For that reason, they voted against the amended directive in first reading, and for the same reason they are also supportive of a new first reading: they want to be able to perfect the directive text.

Asked about whether he thought the Commission would honour the restart request, he replied that he thought they would. The Commission has the option to submit the same text as last time, submit a new text, ignore the request or reject it. Lipietz did not really care whether the Commission would choose the first or second option, since the EP can amend either text as it likes in a new first reading. If the Commission were to either ignore or reject the EP's restart request, he thought the most probable outcome would be a massive rejection of the directive in second reading.

Erik Josefsson from FFII hoped that the restart would finally result in a discussion based on substance, as opposed to discussions about esoteric further technical effects. He asked companies who have lobbied in favour of software patents to give clear examples of individual patents they want to keep, in order to be able to benchmark legislative proposals and amendments. Vague discussions about "MRI scanners" and "mobile phones" do not contribute to getting clear legislative goals.

The conference was also attended by two US lobbyists in favour of software patents who spread their press release and bravely argued their case in the discussion, provoking refutals mainly from Müller and Josefsson. Coming from a US background, they did note they thought the whole obfuscation of the debate using the misleading term "computer-implemented inventions" was unfortunate.

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