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July 6, 2005
EU Parliament Votes Down Software Patents, 648-14
Big news. As reported by the BBC, the European Parliament has voted down the Computer-Implemented Inventions Directive, a law that would have given broad authority to the European Patent Office to start issuing US-style software patents in the EU. Rejection of this law is a huge, huge victory for innovation.
In particular, it's great to see the European Parliament realize that while software patents can spur some incremental innovation amongst coders, they often also inhibit wide adoption of new technologies, entry of start-ups into new markets, and the essential lifeblood of any network -- interoperability of programs and data. Kudos to the MEPs for standing strong on this issue in the wake of intense pressure to maximize patent protection at the expense of competition and universal access to knowledge. Kudos also to FFII, FSF, and all the other organizations that worked so hard to shed light on the true effects this misguided law could have.
A caveat: This vote doesn't outlaw software patents in the EU; it just doesn't officially sanction them. The European Patent Office will now have to decide on its own how to handle these issues, which should be interesting. Over the years, the EPO has granted some but not all software patents applied for, and has tended to do so on a haphazard basis. Hopefully, with such a resounding vote, it will curtail most if not all such grants. We'll see.
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