It's true. JURI has voted to restart the procedure regarding software patents. From scratch. I heard it first from an email, and now Heise has it up online. Here is the FFII press release. Jan Wildeboer tells me that by invoking Rule 55 of the Rules of Parliament, JURI is now asking for a completely new directive. He says the
proposed directive on so-called "computer-implemented inventions" was under heavy fire from the beginning of the intense meeting. By throwing away almost all amendments of the Parliament, the Council tried to push through a "compromise" that was not ultimately accepted, making a restart the only viable way left. So, says Jan, the proposed directive is /dev/null.
"A fresh start will open the doors for constructive definitions of scope and exclusions from patentability", says Hartmut Pilch, founder and president of FFII, "We will now see rational arguments in this discussion and we are ready to bring in our experience and knowledge".
Here's an enjoyable computer translation of the Heise story:
The co-ordinators of the responsible legal committee of the
European Union parliament approximately set today around the planned
guideline over the patenting bar of "computer-implemented
inventions" the switches to evening in the procedure seriously to
restart. "we decided practically unanimously with only two abstentions
that our president explained at the commission a Rekonsultation
requested", to SPE Koordinatorin Maria Berger after the approximately
three-hour session opposite heise on-line. As soon as parliament
president Josep Borrell Fontelles follows that urge of the legal
committee, the commission is requested to deal with itself again with
the guideline. Concretely the commission is to send their original
guideline suggestion either still once to the European Union
parliament or submit a new.
I say hear, hear. The Commission is requested to deal with itself again. Of course, that's the hard part.
Here it is in German, so some of you can help us out with a translation that doesn't make us laugh. Not that I don't feel like laughing. I surely do:
Die Koordinatoren des federführenden Rechtsausschusses des EU-Parlaments haben heute Abend im Verfahren rund um die geplante Richtlinie über die Patentierbarkeit "computerimplementierter Erfindungen" die Weichen nachdrücklich auf Neustart gestellt. "Wir haben praktisch einstimmig mit nur zwei Enthaltungen beschlossen, dass unser Präsident bei der Kommission eine Rekonsultation beantragt", erklärte SPE-Koordinatorin Maria Berger nach der rund dreistündigen Sitzung gegenüber heise online. Sobald Parlamentspräsident Josep Borrell Fontelles dem Drängen des Rechtsausschusses nachkommt, ist die Kommission aufgefordert, sich erneut mit der Richtlinie zu befassen. Konkret soll die Kommission ihren ursprünglichen Richtlinienvorschlag entweder noch einmal an das EU-Parlament übersenden oder einen neuen vorlegen.
Here is a reader's translation:
The co-ordinators of the responsible committee of legal affairs of the EU parliament pointed the way for a restart of the proceedings concerning the directive of "computer-implemented inventions" this evening. "We decided more or less unanimously, with only two abstentions, that our president [i.e. President of the EP] will move for a new conferral", SPE-coordinator Maria Berger told heise online after the conference which had lasted three hours. As soon as President Joseb Borell complies with the urging of the committee, the Commission is exhorted to deal with the directive again. Specifically, the Commission is expected to send the draft to the EP once again or to present a new one.
Here is the FFII press release in full:
European Parliament JURI Committee votes for restart with massive majority
Brussels, 2 February 2005 - The Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament (JURI) has decided with a large majority to ask the Commission for a renewed referral of the software patents directive. With only two or three votes against and one abstention, the resolution had overwhelming support from the committee, and all-party backing.
The decision is a powerful statement from MEPs that the current Council text, and the logjam of concern it has caused, is simply not a sustainable way forward. It is now up to the Commission to submit a new, or the same, proposal to the Parliament. Parliament will then hold a new first reading, this time under the guidance of Michel Rocard MEP as rapporteur.
The European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Charles McCreevy, had in the morning assured the JURI Committee that the Council would finally adopt its beleaguered Common Position text. He announced that "the Luxembourg Presidency has now received written assurances concerning the re-instatement of this issue as an A point at a forthcoming Council". Given that A points are to be adopted without discussion, this left no possibilities for renewed negotiations in the Council. Consequently, the Parliament apparently decided that a restart was the best solution.
Michel Rocard MEP gave a very strong speech at the meeting with the Commissioner. Apart from noting several "inelegancies" by the Commission, such as not taking into account any of the Parliament's substantive amendments in its recommendation to the Council, he also took issue with the Dutch and German governments ignoring their respective parliaments, the Irish Presidency's sponsorship by Microsoft and the attempted ratifications of the political (dis)agreement at several fishery Council meetings.
He mentioned that at a meeting with the Polish government, the industry players confirmed that the Council text allowed pure software patents, and wondered how the Commission could continue claiming the reverse. He was also curious about how the Commission's perfectly tautological definition of the concept "technical" could help in any way to distinguish between what is patentable and what is not. Despite his own abstention when voting on the restart later that day, the fact that almost everyone else supported it is probably his personal achievement.
The Commissioner made clear that "any agreement will need to strike a fair balance between different interests", and that "a constructive dialogue between the Council and Parliament will be vital for an agreement". He does have the option to deny a new first reading. But given the strength of feeling in the Parliament and the concerns of so many member states in the Council, the Parliament request looks like the best way to achieve a clean way forward for this Directive that everyone has been looking for.
Jonas Maebe, board member of FFII:
The Commissioner can jumpstart the constructive dialogue by submitting
a new and more balanced proposal to the European Parliament this time. By
taking into account the countless new facts that have surfaced since the
start of this procedure in 2002, the Commission has a great opportunity to
give the Lisbon strategy the incentives it needs to succeed.
Dieter Van Uytvanck, president FFII Belgium:
We owe this victory for democracy to the members of the European
parliament. Today they have shown once again that they really care
about the concerns of the European citizens. And of course we would
like to thank those as well. I'm sure that without their impressive
support for an innovative climate that is freed of software patents,
this step would not have been possible.