2003 EU Directive on software patents

In 2003, various drafts of a Directive were prepared (mostly written by representatives of the BSA, which represents the interests of large software companies), and had some minor amendments made, sadly not incorporating any opposing views (such as the proposed amendments made by the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure. JURI (the committee for legal affairs and the internal market) rejected all of the amendments which limited patentability and accepted some which would broaden the scope yet further.

I played a small part in the issues at the time, writing letters to my MEP’s about the software patent proposals, taking part in a protest in Brussels and meeting some of my MEPs personally to express my concern.

The issue finally reached the European Parliament as a whole on 23rd September 2003, with a vote on the 24th. The Parliament actually took some notice of what actual software developers (as opposed to self-interested patent lawyers) were saying, and incorporated many helpful amendments (see “European Parliament votes for Real Limits on Patentability“). However this made the lobbyists unhappy and therefore the Directive was eventually thrown out altogether in 2004, leaving us back in an uneasy status quo where the European Patent Office continues to grant ridiculous patents on software in violation of the EPC. The lobbyists are continuing to fight for the right for software patents though, so the vigilance of organisations like the FFII is much appreciated.

Useful reading