The European Parliament has postponed a vote on the software patents directive following protests by computer scientists and economists.
A demo outside the Parliament in Brussels, attended by an estimated 400 last week, and an online protest involving more than 2,000 websites temporarily blacking out their front pages has put pressure on legislators. This, combined with the many thousands who have signed an online petition opposing the change in European patent rules, has prompted Brussels to pause for thought.
The vote, due to take place yesterday (September 1), has been put back to September 22. The delay creates an opportunity for the European Union's Committee on Legal Affairs and the Internal Market (JURI) committee to reconsider Labour MEP Arlene McCarthy's pro-patent report.
She recommended that European rules patenting software should be relaxed in line with existing laws in the US and Japan.
Essentially, the European Commission is proposing to override the current European patent rules (which explicitly state that "mathematical methods, schemes and rules for mental activity, methods of doing business and programs for computers are not patentable inventions"). These would be replaced with a set of regulations which will make it very difficult for national courts to reject patents for algorithms and business methods such as Amazon One Click Shopping patent.
Open Source opponents argue this change in the rules would stifle innovation and tilt power even further to big multi-national corporations.
Some economists also criticise the notion that software patents promote business growth.
Kieren McCarthy's article delves into the issues. It's a must-read if you are interested in the EU software patents debate. ®