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Software Patent Directive Passed By EU

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

26 September 2003


The European Parliament on Wednesday voted to approve the controversial Directive on the Patentability of Computer Implemented Inventions.

However, in response to fears expressed by the software and computer programming communities that the Directive would lead to an US-style software patent regime, 90 amendments were passed, many designed to ensure that software itself cannot be patented.

In a report released following the vote by MEP Arlene McCarthy, who has led the debate on the issue in the European Parliament, it was explained that:

"The central question was whether the current practice of the European Patent Office issuing patents for computer implemented inventions should be formally legalised. MEPs answered this question positively by voting 361 votes in favour, 157 against and 28 abstentions on the legislative resolution."

According to Ms McCarthy, among the amendments tabled by MEPs prior to the vote were provisions to strictly define what is meant by the term 'technical contribution', and to stipulate that such a contribution must be new, non-obvious, and susceptible to industrial application.

MEPs also decided to introduce a 'grace period' with regard to elements of a patent application for any type of invention disclosed prior to the date of the application, for example in order to test its attractiveness to the market.


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