The European Parliament today approved a draft Directive that paves the way for the introduction of software patents in Europe.
However, widespread protests from critics of the measures have succeeded in pulling much of the sting from the proposed regulations. A compromise resolution passed by MEPs features numerous amendments, the most important of which limits the scope of software patents to "true inventions".
US practices that allow the patenting of business methods have been dropped, the Dow Jones Newsletter reports.
That means ideas such as the "one-click" online shopping method patented in the US by Amazon.com are disallowed under the proposed European patent regulations.
There are also severe restrictions on the types of software that can be patented. For example software found in mobile phones, video recorders and set-top boxes can't be patented. And patents can only be enforced against end-users, not suppliers. Industry lobbyists are far from happy.
"Many inventions won't be worth patenting because the patent can't be enforced," said Leo Baumann, spokesman for the Brussels-based European Information and Communication Technology Association, told the Dow Jones Newsletter.
The amended resolution was passed by a majority of 364 votes to 153 with 33 abstentions by MEPs on its first reading today, Reuters reports.
The legislation will now be examined by the Council of Ministers, before returning in second reading to Strasbourg. Industry lobbyists are sure to try hard to get individual governments to reject amendments and adopt measures closer to the original proposals by the European Commission. Remember, the ones that sparked a wave of protest from an alliance of open source developers and others opposed to the original plans.
The issue of software patents has been put on the agenda for a November 10 meeting between government ministers from EU member states. ®
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