14th Dec 2018

Poland blocks EU software patent directive

The Polish government has withdrawn its support for the European software patent directive, saying the directive could hurt small and medium-sized businesses.

Polish Minister of Scientific Research and Information Technology Michal Kleiber said his office would seek to reopen debate on the extent of patenting that should be allowed for computer programs.

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Without Poland's backing, those countries that supported the proposal in May now fall short of a qualified majority in the Council of Ministers.

The Green group in the European Parliament welcomed Poland's move. Eva Lichtenberger, Austrian member of the Legal Affairs Committee, said: "We are glad that Poland's refusal to rubber stamp the directive will open the door to renegotiations among the Member States".

Magda Mosiewicz, co-chairman of the Polish Greens, said:

"I welcome that the Polish government has decided to formally withdraw its support for the software patents directive. I hope other countries will quickly adopt Poland's stance and refuse to vote on the text unless it contains clear limits to the patentability of software and business methods."

The privilege of a few

Big European companies like Nokia, Ericsson, Siemens, Philips and Alcatel have warned that billions in research and development spending would be wasted if they were denied access to patent protection.

While the NoSoftwarePatents (NSP) campaign says patents turn software publishing into the privilege of a few: "Copyright is free, so you don't need patent offices and lawyers to obtain it".

They also pointed to the problem that patents are valid for 20 years.

"In a slow-paced industry, that may be acceptable. For computer software, that means anything which was considered a groundbreaking invention in the days of the Commodore 64 should still enjoy patent protection today", the NoSoftwarePatents group said on their website.

The draft directive on the ‘patentability’ of computer-implemented inventions was expected to be adopted in the coming weeks by EU ministers and sent to MEPs for a second reading by mid-December.

Lacking a qualified majority, the draft will be referred back to the Council, which will have to come up with a new draft to put before the European Parliament next month.

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Professor Richard Betts led an EU-funded research project into global warming. Although he sensed an increase in determination at UN climate talks in Poland, he condemned as an "insult" the refusal of several countries to welcome a new report.

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