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EU - Motion to Restart the Software Patents Process
Monday, January 10 2005 @ 10:35 AM EST

Both Heise and ZDNET have the news. 61 EU members of parliament from 13 countries, including Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden, led by the Polish ex-prime minister Jerzy Buzek and including a former European Commissioner and three vice-presidents of the European Parliament, are asking that the entire legislative process that led to the software patents directive be *begun from scratch*.

They have filed a refile motion, calling on the EU Commission to refer its proposed directive back the EU Parliament, which is where the process begins.

If that happens, I'm told it would essentially mean no patent directive would be back on the table as a finalized directive for 3 or 4 years. Or, maybe it could go away in a way that saves face all around. Lobbyists may want software patents, but it is now clear that many Europeans decidedly do not. ZDNET says that the website where you can thank Poland for blocking a rubberstamping of the directive received 25,000 thank you's in 9 days and continues to climb. The site says that it was inspired by a comment one of you left on Groklaw. I didn't know that.

It could also mean that the lobbyists will try something else. They are unlikely to just quit.

The basis for the request is that, due to the elections in June, most of the current representatives never voted on this issue. Moreover, the "very nature" of software patents have changed "substantially", the members filing the motion say. Thus patent-related risks, for example, were increasingly having an effect on decisions made by public administrations and private organizations on whether "in view of infrastructures and their possibilities to purchase software and services from small and medium-sized companies." This appears to be referring to Munich.

They are invoking Article 55 of the Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament which says that members of parliament are allowed to reconsider a proposal by the EU Commission, such as a draft directive, when "the nature of the problem with which the proposal is concerned substantially changes; elections to Parliament have taken place since it adopted its position". The motion has been given to the Tabling Office of the European Parliament (EP), through which all documents must passed before being discussed by MEPs in the EP. You can read it here [PDF].

Here is the press release from, which was started with the support of Red Hat, MySQL, and 1 & 1. So don't ever let anyone tell you Red Hat isn't really part of the community or doesn't know what free is, blah blah.



61 MEPs from 13 different countries introduce motion -- Restart of legislative process requested on grounds of new elections, EU extension, and changed circumstances -- Procedural step would also represent "a face-saving exit strategy for the EU Council"

Brussels (10 January 2005). The EU's legislative process on a software patent directive continues to be eventful. Just before Christmas, the Polish government surprisingly delayed a decision in the EU Council. Strong support is now building up in the European Parliament for an initiative to restart the entire legislative process. 61 MEPs (Members of the European Parliament), from 13 different countries and 4 political groups, have introduced a motion to ask the EU Commission for resubmitting a legislative proposal, which means to go back to square one. The group of signatories is led by former Polish prime minister Jerzy Buzek, and includes other high-profile politicians, among them three vice presidents of the European Parliament, multiple members of group and committee leaderships, and a former EU Commissioner. The complete list was published today on, a pan-European campaign Website.

The EU Commission had already highlighted the possibility of parliament restarting this legislative process in a statement published on its Website last summer. In this scenario, the EU Parliament would have a new first reading, and the EU Council would again be free to negotiate a "Common Position" on the directive. The EU Council could still change its position in the ongoing process because it has not formally adopted it yet, but countries are now informally bound to a political agreement of 18 May 2004.

"A majority of today's MEPs didn't get to participate in the first reading in 2003, and the governments of the new member states were barely finding their seats in the Council last May", said Florian Mueller, manager of the campaign. "This issue is controversial, complex, and so very critical to Europe's future. A total restart is also a face-saving exit strategy for the Council, which is caught between a rock and a hard place because it would either have to depart from an unwritten diplomatic code and renegotiate its position now, or it would have to decide against all democratic principles."

Mueller pointed out that his campaign also strives for a maximum of legal certainty but that he is "absolutely unaware of any problems for legitimate patent holders in the current situation", so he believes Europe should assign a higher priority to finding the right decision than to rushing this process. "If there is any category of patents that are difficult to enforce in Europe right now, then we're talking about those shady software patents that nobody says he wants and that some say don't even exist." The European Patent Convention explicity excludes patents on computer programs, but an estimated number of more than 30,000 such patents have been granted in Europe nonetheless.

Internet Addresses of Relevant Documents

Motion text:

Lists of signatories (by country and by political group):

Commented version of EU Commission's statement on restart possibility:

Procedural Background Information

Under Rule 55 of its Rules of Procedure, the European Parliament may request a restart of a legislative process under certain circumstances. That request can come from the committee in charge (first paragraph of the rule), or alternatively result from a plenary vote (fourth paragraph). The European Parliament is looking at both procedural options here.

The motion bases the request for a restart upon two facts:

- New European elections have taken place since the original first reading in the European Parliament in 2003. Due to the elections in June and the EU extension in May of 2004, a majority of today's MEPs did not get to participate in the first reading.

- The motion also stresses that "there have been substantial changes in the nature of the subject to which the proposed directive relates". Either one of the two reasons would be sufficient on its own to invoke Rule 55.

Restarting a legislative process after elections routinely happens in various parliaments, such as the German Bundestag. The technical term for the principle is "discontinuity". In the current legislative term of the European Parliament, the "directive on the patentability of computer-implemented inventions" would be the first, and quite likely the only, case in which the principle of discontinuity is applied.

On the subject of changed circumstances, the motion particularly cites patent-related implications to IT infrastructure decisions by public administrations. Last summer, the city of Munich had temporarily suspended its Linux migration project over patent infringement fears. The project was resumed, but the city administration was advised by a local law firm to demand that its IT vendors and service-providers hold the city harmless of patent litigation costs and indemnities. To the dismay of the city administration, this would preclude small and medium-sized businesses from successfully bidding for contracts. Furthermore, on November 18th, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer had warned Asian governments that they would face patent litigation if using the Linux operating system instead of Microsoft's Windows product.

About the Campaign

The campaign was launched on October 20th in initially 12 languages and is supported by three IT companies (1&1, Red Hat, and MySQL AB). More information on the campaign is available on the campaign Web site.


EU - Motion to Restart the Software Patents Process | 186 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
EU - Motion to Restart the Software Patents Process
Authored by: Peter H. Salus on Monday, January 10 2005 @ 11:27 AM EST

As I understand subsidiarity, the obvious thing
for the various lobbyists to do is to begin with
the governments of countries where they think they
have the best chance. The UK, probably, and one
of Finnland, France, Germany, Italy, and Sweden.

With laws on the books in 2-3 countries, it
becomes a matter for Brussels to attempt to make
the 25 countries uniform, rather than sending
stuff to Strassburg, where it may have a very
tough time.

Peter H. Salus

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: LarryVance on Monday, January 10 2005 @ 11:32 AM EST
I have to admit that I hvae never been active in the political process. Part of
why I have not been active is I felt it was futile to try and exert influence as
a simple citizen. I have always disliked the special interest focus of
lobbyists and would like to have a way to have my voice heard also. I am glad
that the ThankPoland information was produced.

I am glad to see blogging become more prevalent in the distribution of
information to the masses. It would be great to see more information relating
to lobbying and what we can do as citizens to counteract special interests.

Larry Vance

[ Reply to This | # ]

corrections here, please...
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 10 2005 @ 11:32 AM EST
and thanks.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Lobbyists: "We will be back!"
Authored by: Vaino Vaher on Monday, January 10 2005 @ 11:36 AM EST
The job of a lobbyist is to push through ideas that otherwise would not have
caught on.
The large software companies will profit BILLIONS if they manage to pass a
european patent law. There will be almost unlimited resources to draw from for
the lobbyists.

But you and I will have to pay those billions. So lean on your local EU
representative! He/she makes good living from their seat. Make sure that Your
representative know that there will be a vote or two to earn on this issue!

And don't forget to mention that patents create benefits to the already rich and
mighty, at the expense of the young, fresh and innovative (against whom patens
will be used!).

Finally, don't forget to mention that in Europe up until now only inventions
have been patentable. Ideas and concepts have not. This will change, should we
have software patents in Europe.

[ Reply to This | # ]

OT - Off-Topic here please
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 10 2005 @ 11:53 AM EST
Off-topic here please.
To post URLS use "HTML Formatted" and type
<a href="http://whatever">description</a>.
Be sure to PREVIEW before SUBMITTING.

[ Reply to This | # ]

More EU enlargement planned
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 10 2005 @ 12:16 PM EST
The EU plan to add Bulgaria in 2007.

Probably also Romania also. Romania is running into some difficulties over
corruption but will probbaly squeak in - as usual.

If the patent directive gets stalled before then there is a reasonable chance
that te addition of yet another country will be sufficient to cause a pause
again in the legal system.



[ Reply to This | # ]

EU - Motion to Restart the Software Patents Process
Authored by: skidrash on Monday, January 10 2005 @ 12:37 PM EST
If a lot of European businessmen could get over their US envy they'd see that the European way is in fact, better. The same productivity with much, MUCH higher quality of life (IMHO).

look at thi s article for an example of how European business is consistently, unfairly and in fact falsely beaten down while US business portrayed as heroic.

and when on that page search for
"Euroland's underlying economic performance is better than many commentators portray."

[ Reply to This | # ]

I hope this isn't a stalling tactic
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 10 2005 @ 12:51 PM EST
Pushing the directive into the future where 'they' can make a second effort to
pass it after they have had time to 'condition' the politicians to their point
of view.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The comment on Groklaw that started the Flood
Authored by: PeteS on Monday, January 10 2005 @ 12:56 PM EST
PJ wrote:

ZDNET says that the website where you can thank Poland for blocking a rubberstamping of the directive received 25,000 thank you's in 9 days and continues to climb. The site says that it was inspired by a comment one of you left on Groklaw. I didn't know that.

In this comment by nb

Th anks to nb !


Artificial Intelligence is no match for Natural Stupidity

[ Reply to This | # ]

EU - Motion to Restart the Software Patents Process
Authored by: rp$eeley on Monday, January 10 2005 @ 01:55 PM EST
back the EU Parliament

[ Reply to This | # ]

EU - Motion to Restart the Software Patents Process
Authored by: 1N8 M4L1C3 on Monday, January 10 2005 @ 02:37 PM EST
Vice approaching each lobby effort in a "one off" fashion, we within
the F/OSS community [and specifically those involved with EFF and PubPat] need
to adopt a broader competative philosophy (not unlike the proprietary interests
with whom we openly compete). Proprietary interests will not simply lay down or
go away when their very existance is at stake - as such, we in the F/OSS
community need to approach these Special Interest Groups (SIGs) as any business
would approach it's competition... ...that is, as part of a long-term strategy,
not a short-term tactic.

We can always win individual battles and still lose the war. Unless we in the
F/OSS community have a cohesive strategy in place to pro-actively engage these
proprietary efforts, we WILL eventually lose the war....

As such,

1. The F/OSS community needs to ensure governmental and regulatory bodies have
sufficient checks and balances in place, so proprietary interests are NEVER
given a rubber-stamp win (e.g. the current U.S. patent process is good case
example of a process needing complete rebuild).

2. Where software patents are permitted, the F/OSS community needs to ensure
application review processes place sufficient onus on petitioners, as to show
justification for issuance of a patent on their claim(s).

3. The F/OSS community needs to foster public support for an open review
process, so contentious item (such as prior art) can be presented in a timely
fasshion, as part of the review process - not post factum (after the fact).

4. Where software patents have been imprudently granted, the F/OSS community
needs to support PubPat and EFF in actively challenging these patents, either
through legislative, regulatory or legal review of the claims.

my two cents worth....

On the 7th day, Linus saw that which he created and it was good... ...on the
8th day SCO litigated.

[ Reply to This | # ]

An angle that the EU hasn't thought of yet?
Authored by: LocoYokel on Monday, January 10 2005 @ 06:52 PM EST
Here is an angle that I would submit the EU hasn't come up with yet.

Everyone always complains how heavy handed the US in terms of trade agreements
and forcing other countries to accept US laws and terms. Suppose the EU were to
reject software patents completely and then make no s/w patents a condition of
importing software into the EU on the basis of protecting their own economy and
businesses from predatory foreign patent pratices. How long do you think it
would take certain US companies wanting to export their software to the EU would
change their tune and drop the issue of patents? The EU would then be in the
position of forcing the US to comply with their pratices rather than the other
way around. I would think that once they think this through, they might want to
pursue this if only on the basis of showing that they are capable of forcing the
US to back down.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 10 2005 @ 10:59 PM EST
MADRID, January 10, 2005 - PandaLabs has detected the appearance of two new
Trojans, Trj/WmvDownloader.A and Trj/WmvDownloader.B, which are spreading
through P2P networks in video files. These Trojans take advantage of the new
technology incorporated in Microsoft Windows Media player called Windows
Media Digital Rights Management (DRM), designed to protect the intellectual
property rights of multimedia content. When a user tries to play a protected
Windows media file, this technology demands a valid license. If the license
is not stored on the computer, the application will look for it on the
Internet, so that the user can acquire it directly or buy it. This new
technology is incorporated through the Windows XP Service Pack 2 + Windows
Media Player 10 update

[ Reply to This | # ]

Understatement of the decade
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, January 11 2005 @ 04:04 PM EST
[Patent lobbyists] They are unlikely to just quit.

Well, that's a good candidate for understatement of the decade. In view of the billions of dollars at stake for giant companies, they will not quit until they have won. We can never finally "win" this battle, because they will never give up. All we can do is hold them off, for as long as we stay determined ourselves. If we don't lose, we must be prepared to go on fighting this one forever.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Comments from the (Miffed) Patent Attorneys
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, January 12 2005 @ 08:41 AM EST
In this story in The Register, you will find this juicy quote:

Patent lawyers Marks&Clark accuse campaigners against the directive of "misinforming industry and serving only to endanger genuine inventions.

"The directive was originally proposed to provide uniformity in the that innovators could be certain that their patents are valid throughout the EU. We should not allow this objective to be undermined."

You can find the above named people at their website.

They have this to say:

Marks & Clerk Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys and Marks & Clerk Solicitors offer an intellectual property service that is unrivalled in the UK.

Both firms provide specialist services to clients in a wide variety of business sectors including: biotechnology, pharmaceutical, chemical, industrial, IT and software, electronics, financial services, fashion, publishing and fast moving consumer goods.

One wonders just who is on their client list.

PeteS (not logged in)

[ Reply to This | # ]

Prominent Groklaw Link
Authored by: joeblakesley on Thursday, January 13 2005 @ 05:03 PM EST
I meant to send an email to PJ when the Thank Poland site was first set up
asking whether it can be better advertised on Groklaw (so all readers see it).
This article is a good advert for the petition, but could we have a "Thank
Poland" banner on the Groklaw front page?

This is the most important political petition for some time: even if you don't
care about software patents, if you are an EU citizen, you need to send the
message to Poland (and other governments) that we, the people, want them to
stand up for democracy (and freedom) within the EU against the corrupt unelected
€C commisioners (and €PO) who stand for big business and are trying to pass laws
without parliamentary approval.

Joe Llywelyn Griffith Blakesley

[ Reply to This | # ]

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