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UK IT industry backs rejection of software patent

Antony Savvas

The UK IT industry has welcomed the European parliament’s decision yesterday to reject the European software directive.

Intellect, which represents 1,000 IT and telecoms companies, said the decision will ensure that UK companies, both large and small, will continue to benefit from the current levels of patent protection available across Europe. 

The proposed directive had drawn wide criticism that it would have created a similar patenting system to that in the US, which many claim favours larger companies with hefty legal budgets, when arguing over the validity of relatively minor software patents.  

John Higgins, Intellect director general said: “This is a clear and positive decision by EU parliamentarians, which has avoided introducing damaging new legislation narrowing patentability, leaving in place the existing legal framework.”

“The current system has served the interests of the UK high-tech industry well, giving companies both large and small the incentive to invest in research and the ability to protect the fruits of their work from exploitation by others,” he added. 

The proposed directive had sought to harmonise the patent system across all 25 EU member states, something Higgins said Intellect supported, but not in the way the directive sought.

The Professional Contractors Group (PCG) also welcomed the directive’s rejection, which it says would have made all software patentable, making it difficult for software developers in general to do their job, including advocates of open source development.

PCG chairman Simon Juden said: “Independent software developers have been granted a last-minute reprieve. Without this vote, the basic tools of their trade would now be owned and controlled by big companies.”

The Business Software Alliance, which polices software licensing for major suppliers, had supported the directive. Francisco Mingorance, BSA Europe’s director of public policy, said: “Although we would have welcomed a harmonisation of laws throughout Europe, at least the intellectual property protection that innovators had yesterday will remain the same tomorrow, and that is critical for European competitiveness.” 

He said, “The BSA hopes that the debate has cast a spotlight on the need for patent reform that is responsive to inventors large and small.”


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