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The Register: Software patents: will Europe roll over for the multinationals?

Oct 12, 2000, 15:05 (7 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Graham Lea)

[ Thanks to Case Roole for this link. ]

"At a well-attended meeting sponsored by French MEP Gilles Savary and arranged by the Eurolinux Alliance at the European Parliament in Brussels this week, attention was drawn to new moves in Europe to legalise software patents. In Europe there exist two totally independent bodies with responsibility for legal issues connected with patents: the European Union set up by the Treaty of Rome and now having 15 members, and the European Patent Office (EPO) set up by the Munich Convention and having 19 members."

"A preliminary administrative EPO roll call has shown that the countries wearing the white hats are the UK, France and Germany, who remarkably have reversed their previous stance in the face of the mounting evidence of harm to their economies if software patenting is approved by the EPO. They are supported by Denmark, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Sweden in calling for more time to study the issue. The guys wearing the black hats and wanting software patents in Europe are Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Switzerland, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Greece, and the Netherlands, with Finland not having voted and new-member Turkey also thought likely to be wearing a black hat. To change the EPC, a 75 per cent majority is required, and each country, regardless of size, has one vote. Questions need to be asked as to how much lobbying it took to get Liechtenstein's vote, and why France didn't get the message across to Monaco."

"The issue has been elevated from a nice little earner for the multinationals, patent lawyers and the fonctionnaires of the patents issuers to an important political issue with fundamental consequences for employment and software development. Although Eurolinux is to be congratulated for drawing attention to the issue, it is something of far more fundamental importance than the concerns of, for example, the 6,000 members (that's a lot) of the Skane Sjaelland Linux Group based in Copenhagen. Software patents, when enforced - for that is the next stage - will have a fundamental effect on software development and the use of software by smaller organisations who cannot maintain a gang of patent lawyers."

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