June 30, 2003 8:08 AM PDT
Software patent vote delayed
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Scientists protest EU software patentsApril 28, 2003
A Monday vote on a controversial software patents proposal in the European Parliament has been put back until September, amid criticism that the legislation would institute a U.S.-style patent regime that would be detrimental to European small businesses and open-source software developers.
The proposed software-patenting legislation is the result of a European Commission effort to clarify patenting rules as they apply to "computer-implemented inventions," a term that includes software. The patent offices of various EU member states currently have different criteria for accepting the validity of software-related patents, a situation that the commission's proposal aims to remedy.
However, opponents of the suggested legislation charge that its ambiguity would effectively allow most software to be patented, a situation that currently exists in the United States. Critics have compared that situation to allowing a monopoly on the ideas in novels.
"It seems that we are on the verge of adopting a patenting regime modeled on that of the U.S., at the very moment when critics in that country have begun to be forceful and articulate in condemning it," Andrew Duff, a European Parliament member from the United Kingdom, said in a statement.
The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure, a software developer lobbying group, hailed the delay as a victory for the democratic process.
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