European Parliament rejection of software patents represents a double victory

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The rejection this week by the European Parliament of the directive providing for patents on software represents a double victory, according to left MEPs who led the long fight to have the proposed measure thrown out. Not only is it to be welcomed because of the undesirability of the directive itself, but also because of the fact that the vote is deserved punishment for the undemocratic and disrespectful working methods of the European Commission and the Council of Ministers.

Speaking on behalf of the European Parliament's GUE/NGL group, Ilda Figueiredo of the Portuguese Communist Party said "With today's decision, the majority of this Parliament has spoken out for the majority of all those concerned. The members of our Group unanimously rejected the Commission's directive on software patents too. There are many winners as a result of this vote. As and from today, a wide range of software solutions will continue to be developed. These products will still benefit from protection against copyright violations." People would now be free to choose from the range of software offered by by small and medium sized businesses, and would not be forced to buy from monopolistic multinationals. Innovative small firms would be confident enough to invest in software development and would no longer be forced to waste money on legal battles to patent their products."

Ms Figueiredo's German colleague Helmut Markhov of the Party of Democratic Socialists added that he was pleased that MEPs "did not give in to campaigns and lobbying by the world's software multinationals," and that once again time and taxpayers' money had been wasted because "the European Commission failed to analyse the problem in sufficient depth or to offer solutions in the best interests of all European Union citizens."

GUE/NGL MEP Erik Meijer, of the Dutch Socialist Party said that “Never before has the Parliament voted down a directive which, following rewording, had been brought back for a second vote. This unprecedented step was no surprise, however, because members were clearly annoyed by the way things had been handled.”

The Commission and Council had used what Mr Meijer described as “tricks and undemocratic means” in order to avoid a debate and force the directive through. The Parliament was, moreover, overrun by lobbyists from multinationals, but all to no avail: patents on software were rejected for a second time, by an overwhelming majority of 648 votes to 14.

“The way in which the issue of software patents has been dealt with provides a good example of the undemocratic nature of the EU,” said Mr Meijer. “This time the European Parliament has successfully resisted steamrollering, but this does not solve the problem itself. The structure of EU politics remains fundamentally undemocratic, favouring the Council of Ministers and the Commission.” Mr Meijer added that the rejected Constitution would have made no positive difference to this.