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EU Patent News - Gates Visiting EU Parliament & Denmark Throws Some Helpful Tacks On the Road
Sunday, January 30 2005 @ 11:01 AM EST

LWN has the best explanation of the next steps in the software patent debate in Europe I've seen yet. At least, I can understand it. I can't vouch for accuracy, because I have no experience in EU law. But I think you'll find it of interest, and it's the first time I grasped the process in my mind clearly. At all, actually. On February 2nd, the article says, JURI is set to decide whether or not to restart the procedure.

I also have some news. Two Groklaw readers in Denmark say it's in the papers there that Denmark is joining Poland in trying to slow the vote down long enough for a restart, hopefully. That's the good news.

Here's the bad. Guess who is headed to Europe and arrives the day before the JURI meeting on the 2nd? Bill Gates himself. This is getting to be like an old James Bond flick.

Our Danish friend says:

"Danish newspapers report, that Denmark will now oppose placing the software patent directive as an A-item on Council meetings until the 8th of February. This is due to election for Danish parliament, that will be held at the 8th of February.

"Maybe it will help Poland's position, and also give EU Parliament the necessary time for the restart process."

If you read Danish, you can confirm it here and here. Ole translates the key sentence in the story like this:

"The question of software patents was on the agenda during the meeting of the European subcommittee Friday, where minister of foreign affairs Per Stig Møller insured that Denmark will block acceptance of the directive prior to the Danish Parliament election."

Another reader wrote to his MEP in Ireland, Avril Doyle, and the communication he got back from a staffer told him that Gates will be visiting the EU Parliament on February 1, next Tuesday, to meet with a "select group" of MEPs on the issue of software patents and "other issues".

Let me guess. Like how to ram software patents down everyone's throat before they have time to gag, maybe? Followed shortly thereafter by the destruction of Microsoft's pesky Linux competition through patent infringement lawsuits, perchance?

The rest of the letter was the usual, all about how necessary it is to have some sort of "compromise" and here is the path ahead from her perspective:

"As regards the democratic process, the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the patentability of computer-implemented inventions falls under the codecision procedure. This means that the Parliament and the Council have equal decision making powers in passing the legislation. After the Council's Common Position is produced, the Parliament will have another opportunity to amend the bill before the Council examines it for a second and final time. Mrs. Doyle will have the opportunity to submit amendments to the legislation when it is referred to the Industry, Research and Energy Committee for an Opinion. The timetable has not yet been finalised, however I am informed that the Parliament´s Second Reading is due for adoption in June of this year.     

  "If you have any suggested amendments, or would like any further information from our side, please do not hesitate to contact us. Please be assured that Mrs Doyle is actively involved in finding a good compromise on the patenting of computer implemented inventions, one that is not based on the US patent system."

Her position is that she is against the patenting of "pure software", but "recognizes the need for certainty and for a clear legal framework to be set down by legislators rather than established purely on a case-by-case basis," and says: "Software patenting is not something that can simply be ignored" because of WIPO.

And by the way, a press release attached to the email she sent him was in -- you guessed it -- Microsoft Word format.  


EU Patent News - Gates Visiting EU Parliament & Denmark Throws Some Helpful Tacks On the Road | 198 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Corrections Here
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 30 2005 @ 11:12 AM EST
So they are easy to find!

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 30 2005 @ 11:14 AM EST
<A HREF="">Clickable link</A>

[ Reply to This | # ]

Lobbying question
Authored by: webster on Sunday, January 30 2005 @ 11:21 AM EST
In urging MEP's to reject software patents is it accurate to say that software
already enjoys copyright protection in Europe? Would that be effective?

Copyright protection is precise and clear. Patent protection leads to a
coinflip battle between two vague descriptions with the patent holder getting
three flips.


[ Reply to This | # ]

EU Patent News - Gates Visiting EU Parliament & Denmark Thows Some Helpful Tacks On the Road
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 30 2005 @ 11:46 AM EST
It's disgusting. I'm so disgusted at the a** kissing Gates is doing that I
can't think straight. Gotta mull this over... Europeans beware... your democracy
has been compromised.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Reduced term protection for copyright is only way to go...
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 30 2005 @ 11:49 AM EST
What is wrong with the compromise that Stallman and others proposes?

Copyrights, should be the foundation to software. And may I say that the only
compromise is one where the debate is about the term of copyright protection for
software. A program idea is only functional once it is actual code that works.

There is no way, in a patent's typical description language, to EXACTLY decribe
the ACTUAL working of any piece of code. The code speaks for itself! There is
no other way to say what a program does without the code being the only factor
in the examination of the description. A lawyers wording to try to describe
what happens is going to fall dramaticly short of any degree of accuracy. Of
course we have stages of development typically called Alpha, Beta, Pre-release,
etc... that needs protection as well., but shouldn't copyright also protect
these, even as they are being written LINE by LINE?

What the EU and the debaters have been trying to do all along is to merge
copyright and patents? Why bring the patent into this equation at all (unles
you are trying to reduce the term of protection to patent terms of protection vs
the longer copyright term of protection)?

Software only needs the code that was produced protected for a limited period of
time (7 years would be a good place to start)!

As far as the "computer invention" or hardware, isn't that independent
of the software? And isn't this design based on past practices where it is an
open standard that is followed?

Copyright is all they need. Why don't the get it? Is the Microsoft and
pro-patent groups FUD so thick so as to not see the forest thru the trees?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Danish leading party seems to have changed their mind
Authored by: hawk on Sunday, January 30 2005 @ 11:54 AM EST

Some time ago I wrote to the leading party in Denmark to ask (among other things) whether they thought it was OK to get software-patents in "through the back door".

I thought the election (February 8th) would make them likely to answer thoughtfully.

The answer went something like (heavily paraphrased, it was actually long, polite, and quite well-written):

  • Our stance: software-patents is good for business
  • We have them anyway, but it is "de-facto" and it is hard for the companies to figure out how to do it right.
  • Those other questions, about democracy and such? Oh, I forgot those...

    I actually wrote that I reserved the right to publish their answer on the Internet, unless they explicitly told me otherwise. They did not, so I guess I could put it up here if anyone is interested. (It is in Danish)

    PS: One thing you should know about the government in Denmark is that it consists of several parties. Even in combination, they rarely (if ever) have a majority of votes in the parliament. This makes a difference in the EU, since the governments have separate votes (like in this case).

    [ Reply to This | # ]

  • EU Patent News EU Parliament
    Authored by: Chris Lingard on Sunday, January 30 2005 @ 12:03 PM EST

    The history of Software Patent Act has been mis-reported so I thought that I would state the facts that I have found out. What has happened has nothing to do with lack of democracy within the European Parliament, but has to do with the secretive actions of the Council of Ministers.

    Many thanks to the MEPs, of all parties, who have spoken to me, and those who did the leg-work, and asked ministers within the council.

    First a brief introduction to European politics.

    The upper house is the Council of Ministers and is attended by a minister from each of the EU's 25 national governments, their identites depending on what is on the agenda ; they fly into Brussels from their national capitals, after having their national governments tell them what to do and how to vote, then they fly out again. For example, if something was very important to the United Kingdom; then Prime Minister Tony Blair could fly over.

    The upper house is like an international conference, and is secretive as to what deals have been done.

    The lower house is the European Parliament is composed of 732 directly-elected MEPs. This is fairly open, and this is the one we must lobby. For instance Sir William Gates has visited and bought lunches for MEPs. I was quite shocked to find that large non-European companies lobby here; but have now found out that most very large companies lobby in most countries; (and some of these companies are European).

    The Software Patent Act has had its first reading in the lower house; and is now in the upper house. It needs three readings, (both Council and Parliament), before it can become law.

    The Council of Ministers agreed their Common Position (ie their first reading) last May 2004, by voting in secret as always. The Commission proposal was passed by the necessary majority, and with the Poles in favour. Amendments made by the prior first reading in the lower house were removed, (as is their right). The Act could now return to Parliament for its second reading by MEPs.

    First however, the technical procedure was that the Council's agreed text had to be put into all 20 EU official languages and then checked against each other for accuracy. This step has taken the Council many months - because of Enlargement of the EU last May by ten more countries which obliged the Council to recruit more people, some inexperienced.

    Finally, their fully-checked all-language version was ready - two weeks ago - and it went back onto the agenda of the next meeting of Ministers in the Council, for automatic approval, without debate, being taken first and known as an "A" point. This has to happen because, under EU law, a Minister has to give agreement and not an official.

    It so happened that the next available meeting was of Agriculture ministers ten days ago, and so the Software proposal went onto their agenda for technical nodding-through. However, the Poles annnounced that a mistake had been made and that they are actually against the latest Council proposal as it stands. It so happened, that the Poles, by changing their position, found they held the swing vote, and tipped the majority against approval. Council officials protested that this just is not done, that it had been agreed last May, and the Poles have no constitutional right to do that.

    The Poles reply that there are no recorded Minutes of last May's meeting (nor of any Council meeting) nor a visual tape, only an audio tape but, listening to it, it does not record how each national minister cast his vote last May. The proposal went back onto this Monday's Agriculture Council agenda again as an "A" point - but, the dispute being still unresolved, was withdrawn again. It is now pencilled in for the General Affairs Council on Monday 31st January.

    The moral of this sorry tale is that the Council of Ministers should legislate in public, as every other parliament in the world does except perhaps in North Korea and Beijing.

    There should be minutes of a meeting, the draft, and the vote; but this was secret; so Poland could be right that the draft has been changed. But this is the fault of the Council; and not the European parliament.

    Please note that until this act is rubber-stamped and returns to the lower house; then no MEP can take any action at all. If the Council voted again, then it should be rejected; but there is no precedent since the first reading vote has already been made. (But then there is no precedent to challange the rubber-stamping of this act).

    The Legal Committee, known as "JURI", belongs to the lower house, it has been reported that it can strike this act. There is no way that a lower house committee can effect an Act under the remit of the Council.

    Here is the JURI

    And see the agenda. Other than item 17, which is unclear; there is no mention of patents.

    If an act reaches a second or third reading, then it becomes much more difficult to change it; it requires a large majority vote relative to the total number of MEP, and not the number present in the house. But this act can be amended; if the lower house and the Council fail to agree after the third reading, then the Act fails.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    EU Patent News - Gates Visiting EU Parliament & Denmark Thows Some Helpful Tacks On the Road
    Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 30 2005 @ 12:03 PM EST
    Proponents of software patents keep saying that they're not in favor of 'pure
    software' patents, but rather of patents protecting inventions dependent on
    embedded software. How then does this explain Microsoft's extreme interest? If
    'pure software' patents aren't envisioned, then they shouldn't have a stake one
    way or another, wouldn't you think?

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Public display of Power
    Authored by: Darkelve on Sunday, January 30 2005 @ 12:41 PM EST
    The best way to convince the rest of the 'ecosystem' that you are not the
    cornered prey, pretend you're the predator.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    European subcommittee
    Authored by: eskild on Sunday, January 30 2005 @ 12:43 PM EST

    The subcommittee on European Union affairs of the Danish Parliament.

    Not every matter for the European Council is presented to parliament before the
    meetings of the council. It cannot be as debates in the parliament are open to
    the public and meetings of the Council are not. As Parliamentary subcommitees
    are closed to the public and the parties are all represented there, it was
    decided back in 1972 that all matters to be discussed in the Council, should be
    according to a mandate given by the European subcommitte


    [ Reply to This | # ]

    EU Patent News - Gates Visiting EU Parliament Not Steve Ballmer
    Authored by: Pop69 on Sunday, January 30 2005 @ 01:32 PM EST
    Interesting to see that it's Bill himself who's doing the rounds in Europe.

    Obviously Europe require a little more subtlety than to just send Steve Ballmer
    to make his "protection" speech about IP.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    EU Patent News - Gates Visiting EU Parliament & Denmark Thows Some Helpful Tacks On the Road
    Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 30 2005 @ 02:13 PM EST
    Not tacks, but caltrops. The ancient ones were solid and would hurt the horsies'
    hooves. The modern ones are hollow; they still hurt the horsies' hooves, and
    they let the air of the tires of Hummers.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Key sentence translation:
    Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 30 2005 @ 02:44 PM EST
    I'd disagree with that translation. The text:

    Jeg har bedt udenrigsminister Per Stig Møller om at bekræfte, at Danmark vil modsætte sig at direktivforslaget bliver sat på dagsorden som A-punkt under et minister-rådsmøde i EU så længe valgkampen kører. Det har han bekræftet,« siger SF's it-ordfører Anne Grete Holmsgaard til ComON.
    Reads, in full translation:

    I have asked foreign minister Per Stig Moeller to confirm, that Denmark will oppose the proposed diretive as an A-item on the agenda for EU Council meetings during the election campaign. He has confirmed that." said SF's IT-chairmain Anne Grete Holmsgaard to ComON.

    So it's worth noting it's not a quote straight from Moeller, but from Holmsgaard, a member of the SF = Socialist party (who are anti-SW-patents). Moeller is a conservative.

    The article also mentions that the DF (Danish peoples' party) also wants a stay on the issue until after the elections in Denmark.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Use the correct argument when lobbying
    Authored by: Naich on Sunday, January 30 2005 @ 04:05 PM EST
    Before you write to anyone, if possible find out how they stand on this
    directive so you can make your case in a way they will be sympathetic with.

    I've sent basically the same letter to MEPs, MPs and government offices about my
    oposition to software patents, and all those that replied (which is probably
    about 40% of the people I contacted) have said the same thing - "we are
    against software patents too". Even the guy from the patent office!

    Now, it's fairly clear that this directive will allow software patents in
    through the back door. The difference in the replies came when they talked
    about the directive.

    The official line from the UK patent office is that this directive will prevent
    the patenting of pure software. Read that again. Does it make any more sense
    this time? No, me neither. However, that is the line of the directive's
    supporters and that is the point to address when contacting them. Do they
    believe it, or have they got another agenda? It doesn't matter. There is
    absolutely no point in ranting about how software patents are bad; they will
    just agree with you. Make it clear that you think this bill will have the
    opposite effect to the one they think it will have. Use examples of ridiculous
    patents that have already been granted to make your case. See for some good (or should that be bad?) examples.

    For those opposed to this directive, make it clear how badly their support is
    needed to stop it becoming law.

    Rant over. Sorry to preach.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Word attachments
    Authored by: cricketjeff on Sunday, January 30 2005 @ 06:12 PM EST
    The answer to politicians sending word docs in opposition to software patents is
    surely to return them saying "unfortunately I cannot read this document
    because I refuse to violate software patents even though I do not agree with
    It may not be 100% of the truth, but maybe it would make the sender think.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    I'm thinking of a different movie
    Authored by: Prototrm on Sunday, January 30 2005 @ 06:29 PM EST
    Like how to ram software patents down everyone's throat before they have time to gag, maybe?

    This certainly doesn't sound like a James Bond flick. Is anyone else reminded of the face-hugger creature in the Alien movies? Same sad result for the EU, I fear.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    His own words on software patents - for MEPs meeting Gates
    Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 31 2005 @ 12:36 PM EST
    Anyone got a list of the MEPs (Avril Doyle et al.) meeting Gates tomorrow?

    Fax 'em this:

    If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete stand-still today. The solution . . . is patent exchanges . . . and patenting as much as we can. . . . A future start-up with no patents of its own will be forced to pay whatever price the giants choose to impose. That price might be high: Established companies have an interest in excluding future competitors.
    (Bill Gates, 1991, according to Fred Warshofsky, The Patent Wars 170-71, NY: Wiley 1994)

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    To quote from "Sneakers"
    Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 31 2005 @ 01:50 PM EST
    "There's a war out there old friend - A world war - and it's not about
    who's got the most bullets; it's about who controls the information. What we see
    and hear, how we work, what we think, it's all about the information!"

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    EU Patent News - Gates Visiting EU Parliament & Denmark Throws Some Helpful Tacks On the Road
    Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, February 02 2005 @ 09:11 AM EST
    Any news about the meeting????

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    EU Patent News - Gates Visiting EU Parliament & Denmark Throws Some Helpful Tacks On the Road
    Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, February 02 2005 @ 09:16 AM EST
    I checked the meeting agenda of JURI on 02 Feb 2005, but there is no mention on
    software patents. Unless it is covered under teh "other issues"

    Anyone wiht first hand information?

    [ Reply to This | # ]

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