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Gartner Warns That EU Software Patent Directive Could Complicate E-Commerce

by Ulrika Lomas, for LawAndTax-News.com, Brussels

01 October 2003


In a report issued this week, research firm, Gartner warns that the newly approved EU Directive on the Patentability of Computer-Implemented Inventions may lead to a "patent war" between the European Union and the United States when it is implemented.

The report's authors, Debra Logan, Andrea Di Maio, and Nikos Drakos, explained that:

"A European Union (EU) directive is the only reasonable approach for harmonizing laws across Europe and for moving towards a single patenting system. Member states' patent offices and the European Patent Office already grant patents for software but use different criteria for deciding what can be patented."

However, the directive has several stages of scrutiny left to pass, and although the 90 amendments added (mainly with a view to preventing the patenting of business methods, and of the algorithms used in software programs) remove the ambiguity of the previous draft, the report warns that "it remains unclear whether the (European) Commission will accept them and continue with the legislative process."

If the directive does become European law in its amended state, the research firm went on to suggest: "the significant differences between the US and European approaches to software patenting raise the prospect of a patent war. Potentially, this could have big implications for web site operators as disputes arise over which country a patent can be enforced in - it might even become illegal to access a European e-commerce site from the United States."

However, the report concluded by observing that in view of the amount of discussion and scrutiny still necessary, the directive is unlikely to be implemented into national law in member states until Q4 2005 at the earliest.


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