The European parliament has voted against the proposed European Software directive, which was supposed to harmonise patent regulation across EU member states.
The decision by the parliament now means the European Patent Office and individual member states will manage patent requests as before.
European Union ministers and many large software companies had supported a directive, which critics had claimed would have worked against open source software development and against the interests of smaller software companies.
Comenting on the vote patent lawyer John Collins, a partner at Marks & Clerk, said: “We strongly believe that no directive is better than a bad directive.
“Those opposed to patent protection for software inventions saw the directive as an opportunity to reduce the scope of protection for software inventions. Had the directive been passed [with the amendments] it could have resulted in software patent protection being weakened.”
Collins said, “The open-source lobby will try to claim victory and say that this vote is a defeat for software patents, yet software will continue to be patented in Europe as it has been for the last 30 years.”
Two of the few large companies that lobbied against the un-amended directive were open source adherents Red Hat Software and Sun Microsystems, who worked with open source body the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) against the directive.
“This outcome is a clear victory for open source,” said Simon Phipps, chief open source officer at Sun Microsystems. “It expresses the parliament’s clear desire to provide a balanced, competitive market for software, one that gives equal access to participants of all sizes."
Mark Webbink, deputy general counsel of Red Hat, said: “The action of the parliament affirms that the scope of patentability in the proposed legislation was too broad, that it is better to have no legislation than bad legislation.”