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[ox-en] [Free-sklyarov-uk] EU Ambassadors vote to back Software Patents

-- FFII News Release -- 7 May 2004 --
+++ +++ +++ +++ +++ +++ +++ +++ +++ +++ +++ +++ +++ +++
-- For immediate release --

COREPER approves EU Presidency software patents text

EU Ambassadors vote to back Software Patents
-- Final confirmation by Ministers within 2 weeks

for immediate release

The EU Council of Ministers seems determined to prove that the EU is a
democracy only on paper.  This Wednesday, the Irish Presidency has
managed to secure a qualified majority for a counter-proposal on the
software patents directive, with only a few countries - including
Belgium and Germany - showing resistance.  The new text proposes to
discard all the amendments from the European Parliament which would
limit patentability.  Instead the lax language of the original
Commission proposal is to be reinstated in its entirety, with direct
patentability of program text fragments added as icing on the cake.  The
proposal is now scheduled to be confirmed without discussion at a
meeting of ministers on 17-18 May, unless one of the Member States
changes its vote.

In a remarkable sign of unity at a time of imminent elections, members
of the European Parliament from all groups across the political spectrum
are condemning this blatant disrespect for democracy in Europe.


The powerful COREPER committee of EU member states' Permanent
Representatives in Brussels has provisionally agreed on a new draft for
the controversial Software Patent directive, overruling concerns from
the German, Belgian, and Danish delegations, and the Slovakian
non-voting observers. (The new accession countries only become full
voting members in November).

The new draft rejects all of the European Parliament's limiting
amendments, and is described by FFII as "the most uncompromisingly
pro-patent text yet".

The Coreper text also goes further than the original European Commission
text of 2002. In 2002 the Commission had agreed, in difficult
negotiations between DG Internal Market (Bolkestein) and DG Information
Society (Liikanen) not to allow program claims. Now it seems that DG
Information Society has rolled over to the united pressure of Bolkestein
and the Council's patent administrators.

A leaked document from Bolkestein's DG Internal Market suggests that DG
Information Society no longer objects to program claims. This concession
by Liikanen is needed in order to rush the Council working group
proposal through the ministers' session as an "A item", i.e. a consensus
point which does not need any discussion by the ministers.

Technically, the decision by COREPER on Wednesday is only a "forecast"
of the final decision, to be confirmed at the Competitiveness Council of
Ministers on 17-18 May. Until that date, Member states can still change
their minds (and their votes).

If confirmed by ministers, the text will form the basis for the
Directive's second reading in Parliament, after the EU elections.  EU
rules make it far more difficult for the Parliament to make changes at
second reading.

Support for the text at a political level in some states is still said
to be quite soft; and decisions brokered in Coreper do fall apart (last
year's discussions on the Community Patent, for example).

FFII is therefore urging supporters to make their voices heard *now*,
especially software SMEs who make up the majority of the IT industry (eg
over 80% of IT jobs in Germany).  In particular supporters should try to
mobilise organisations of which they are members, urgently try to meet
or contact local MPs and MEPs, and also Commissioner Liikanen's office
at DG Information Society.

Proposals slammed by MEPs from all sides

* "Parliament Overruled by Patent Office Administrators"
	-- Anne Van Lancker (Socialist MEP, Belgium).
* "Council Ignores Elected Representatives"
	-- Piia-Noora Kauppi (Conservative MEP, Finland).
* "Council and Commission Failed to do their Homework"
	-- Pernille Frahm (Nordic Green/Left MEP, Denmark).
* "Patent Administrators Not Interested in 'Harmonisation and
Clarification' "	
        -- Daniel Cohn-Bendit (Green MEP, France).
* "Council Moves Highlight Lack of Democracy in the EU"
        -- Bent Hindrup Andersen (Euroskeptic MEP, Denmark).
* "Irish Presidency Protecting US Companies from EU Competition"
     	-- Johanna Boogerd-Quaak (Liberal MEP, Netherlands).
Anne van Lacker (SPE - Belgium):

	"Parliament Overruled by Patent Office Administrators"
	"The Council not only ignores the European Parliament in this matter,
but adds to the insult by going even further than the Commission: in
addition to making the usage of patented algorithms and business methods
in computer programs an infringement, they also propose to forbid their
publication, by allowing direct claims to information entities (also
known as "program claims").

	"Given that the current Council proposal was written behind closed
doors by patent office administrators, this unworldly outcome should not
surprise anyone, unfortunately.

Piia-Noora Kauppi (PPE-DE group, Finland):

	"Council Ignores Elected Representatives"

	"If the Council is trying to look for a compromise with the European
Parliament on the proposal for patenting of computer-implemented
innovations (software patents), it should base its work on the final
decision taken by the plenary session of the Parliament, not on that of
the Commission or of the Legal Affairs Committee. Judging from the
papers produced so far by the Council's working party, it seems that the
Council is not taking the will of Europe's elected legislators into

Pernille Frahm (Vice-chair, NGL group, Denmark):

	"Council and Commission Failed to do their Homework"

	"The patent administrators in the Commission and Council are abusing
the legislative process of the EU.

	"Their convoluted and misleading Patent Newspeak, negotiated in
intransparent backroom dealings, is an insult to the European
Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of
Regions and the innumerable experts and stakeholders who have engaged in
serious investigations on this directive project with us. Not only did
the Commission and Council fail to do their own homework, they are now
also attempting to throw away all the hard work that the elected
legislators did for them, without even trying to respond to the concerns
which have been raised".
Daniel Cohn-Bendit (Chair, Greens/EFA group, France):

	"Patent Administrators Not Interested in 'Harmonisation and
Clarification' "

	"The Council working party has so far completely failed to address the
problems which the European Parliament's Cultural and Industrial Affairs
committees tried to solve. They behave in the same way as the Legal
Affairs Committee behaved last year, and we can expect that they will
fail in the same way.

	"It is clear that the national patent officials in the Council do not
want "harmonisation" or "clarification". They merely want to secure the
interests of the patent establishment. If they don't get what they want,
they simply bury the directive project and try to find other ways to get
around the existing law, whose clarity is so painful to them".
Bent Hindrup Andersen (Danish June Movement/ EDD group, Denmark):

	"Council Moves Highlight Lack of Democracy in the EU"

	"The approach of the Commission and Council in this directive is
shocking. They are making full use of all the possibilities of evading
democracy that the current Community Law provides. First they ignored
94% of the participants of their own consultation, without given any
justification apart from the claim that the remaining 6% represented the
"economic majority". Now they are completely disregarding the vote of
the European Parliament, and by the way also of the Economic and Social
Council and of the Council of Regions. They are doing this because they
are used to success by doing this. The EU is constructed this way. It
makes unaccountable bureaucrats the masters of legislation. The problem
is compounded by the complete lack of democratic checks and balances in
the European patent system. EU and Patents combine into a particularly
toxic mixture. Europe's citizens urgently need to take up this issue and
learn the lessons before it is too late. They should in particular not
allow this kind of structure to be perpetuated by a European
Constitution this year".

Johanna Boogerd-Quaak (ELDR group, Netherlands)

	"Irish Presidency Protecting US Companies from EU Competition"

	"I'm under the impression that the Irish Presidency has buckled under
the interests of American Companies. Those big American Companies will
profit from software patents, but it is a very bad deal for innovation
in European SMEs. Additionally, the Council is showing contempt for
parliamentary democracy. We must make sure that after the elections
there will again be a majority in the European Parliament that is
willing to show its teeth".

Underlying documents

*  The Council proposal documents 8253/04 and 8253/04 ADD from April 6
are not accessible "due to the sensitive nature of the negotiations and
the absence of an overriding public interest" according to the Council's
General Secretariat.

*  However FFII has obtained a copy of the latest proposed text,
including the "footnotes" with member states' comments:

* Analysis of the text by Philippe Aigrain:

* Minutes of internal negotiations to decide the Commission's line:

* Political analysis and instructions to the Austrian delegation (in


Media contacts

    media at ffii org
    Hartmut Pilch [PHONE NUMBER REMOVED] (German/English/French)

    Jonas Maebe [PHONE NUMBER REMOVED] (Dutch/English)

    Erik Josefsson [PHONE NUMBER REMOVED] (Swedish/English)

    Thierry Coutelier [PHONE NUMBER REMOVED] (French/German/English)

    Benjamin Henrion [PHONE NUMBER REMOVED] (French/English)

    Dieter Van Uytvanck [PHONE NUMBER REMOVED] (Dutch/English)

    Tomasz Marciniak [PHONE NUMBER REMOVED] (Polish)

    Stepan Kasal [PHONE NUMBER REMOVED] (Czech)

    James Heald [PHONE NUMBER REMOVED] (English)

    More Contacts to be supplied upon request

About the FFII --

The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) is a
non-profit association registered in Munich, which is dedicated to the
spread of data processing literacy. FFII supports the development of
public information goods based on copyright, free competition, open
standards. More than 300 members, 700 companies and 50,000 supporters
have entrusted the FFII to act as their voice in public policy questions
in the area of exclusion rights (intellectual property) in data processing.

Permanent URL of this Press Release

A longer version of this release can be found at:


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