Michel Rocard: Why the European Parliament rejected the software patent directive

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6th July 2005 -- The Parliament's rapporteur for the directive "on the patentability of computer-implemented inventions" (software patent directive) harshly criticises the unconstructive attitude of the Commission and of the national patent administrations, who handled this dossier in the Council.

Translation Nr. 1

(This is a quick translation into English (by taco) of the French transcript of Rocard's speech.)

Thank you mister President. Mister President, my dear colleagues.

It's very likely that this assemblee will reject the project of a directive concering the patentability of computer-assisted inventions in the coming 2, 3 minutes. All of our large groups, and even the small ones outside (?) if you excuse me, have taken that decisision, but for contradicting reasons. Because of that, I don't have the mandate or quality to comment on those reasons, but there's a common significance in that convergence. We're divided about fifty-fifty on the basics of the subject, with a total unpredictability in the result with a relative majority vote (note of translator: "if we would do a normal vote instead of a vote about rejection, the result would we uncertain") and an impossibility on both parts to reach a qualified majority. Each of our opinion blocks prefers to reject the text to the adoption of it with the opinions of the other. But there especially is a collective anger that is unanimous throughout all of the parliament against the unacceptible way the parliament is treated by the Commission and the Council. (applause) Total disdain, (applause), total disdain "sarcastic reactions on the choices made by the parliament on first lecture" (note from translator: not completely sure about the exact formulation, but this is what it means), total absence of any consultation on the part of the Commission in the writing of the text for the second lecture, repeated attempts to prevent even the debate among governments in the Council itself.

In principle, just that is already scandalous. The crisis through which Europe goes at this moment is largely based on democratic insufficiencies. There, the council has a crushing responsibility which it has in particular manifested in this dossier. May this rejection be a lesson to it. Regarding the contents (applause) Regarding the contents, the state of opinions like we represent them here shows well that the problem isn't void (note from translator: hard to translate exactly, but the idea is that the problem really exists). So, it's exactly the deepening of the debate which would have allowed us to reach to more consensus by maturation. About that essential subject; several billions of dollars (1*10^9) of stakes and especially very difficult, a state of collective consciousness is, as proofed, currently being formed (note from translator: sorry for the fuzzy translation).

The rejection in that view is a message to the European Patent Office. The European Parliament has refused to legalise the recent derivals of jurisprudence to enlarge the field of patentability to certain kinds of software. If those derivals were to continue, it seems clear that a parliamentary majority would emerge to stop them.

Thank you my dear colleages.

Translation Nr. 2

From Might need a little tweaking, but I (CJG from Groklaw) think the translation is largely correct.

Thank you Mr. President, Mr. president, dear colleagues, in all likelihood this assembly will within the next two or three minutes reject the directive concerning the patentability of computer-assisted inventions. All our large parliamentary groupings, and even the smaller ones, have made this decision for a variety of contradictory reasons. I have neither a mandate nor the ability to comment on these reasons, but the convergence of the outcome reveals a common underlying meaning. Each block prefers to reject the text rather than acquiesce in the opinions of the other. But above all, there is here a common and near-unanimous anger of this Parliament against the inadmissible manner in which it has been treated by the Commision and the Council [applause]. Contempt, [applause] total and sarcastic contempt for the choices made by this Parliament in the first reading, total absence of consultation on the part of the Commission in the preparation of the text for the second reading, and efforts to squelch even government-to-government debate within the Council itself.

This is in itself a scandal. The current European crisis is largely caused by democratic inadequacy. The council bears a crushing responsibility for this inadequacy, which has been particularly in evidence in the case at hand. Let this rejection serve it as an object lesson[applause]. Insofar as the substance of this debate is concerned, the state of opinion represented here demonstrates that the issue is not ripe for resolution. A deepening of the debate would have been essential to arrive at a consensus. On this difficult but essential subject, with dozens of billions of dollars at stake, a collective rethinking is evidently underway.

In a sense, this rejection should be regarded as a message to the European Patent Office. The European Parliament has refused to ratify the recent administrative extensions of jurisprudence directed at liberalizing the patentability of software. If these extensions should continue, it appears clear that a parliamentary majority will emerge to put a stop to them.

Thank you, dear colleagues.

Translation Nr. 3

Thank you very much Mr. President.

All the big groups and even the small groups - I'm sorry - have taken this decision, but for different reasons. So I don't have a mandate, or even the ability, to comment on all the different motives behind this, but I do think there's a single meaning behind this decision. When it comes to the substance of the issue, we are split almost half-half, so we don't really know what the result will be when it comes to getting a relative majority and it will be difficult - or almost impossible - to get a qualified majority. The different schools of thought here prefer the rejection of the text rather than accepting the opinion of the other side, of the other school of thought.

But there is collective anger, unanimous anger, here throughout the Parliament because of the unacceptable way in which this was dealt with, handled by, Commission and Council. Total contempt, total contempt, even sarcasm and scorn about the opinions drafted by Parliament during the first reading; a total lack of any consultation by Commission when it came to the draft text for the second reading; and repeated attempts to prevent a debate between the governments and the Council itself. The principle of that is already unacceptable. Europe is going through a crisis, and this is partly because of the democratic deficit in the institutions. The Council has overwhelming responsibility for this. The Council has shown with this issue that it isn't acting democratically and this rejection of this position should serve as a lesson to the Council.

As for the substance, if you look at public opinion, which we represent here, the general thrust is that this issue is not ready for adoptions, legislation is not mature, and so we need to have a more detailed debate, an in-depth debate, that would be capable of fostering consensus.

This is a crucial issue, several billion dollars a year at stake here. What we need here is a raising of awareness. That has started, and the rejection of this Common Position is a message to the [European] Patent Office. The European Parliament has refused to do anything about the fact that we are drifting when it comes to the law on software. If this drift continues, then there'll a majority in this house to stop this drift, this dangerous drift.

Thank you very much, colleagues.

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