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
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.