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EU software patents in limbo

Law delayed by a month

A proposal for a pan-European law on software patents is being delayed by a failure among European parliamentarians to agree on the text, according to an official at the European Parliament.

The European Parliament (EP) was expected to formulate a position on the proposed EU law at a committee meeting this Wednesday, with a view to submitting the law for a vote at the EP's plenary session in early June.

However, the legal affairs committee, which is leading the debate within the European Parliament, has rescheduled the committee vote for 10 June. An official at the Parliament, who asked not to be named, said that there remains too wide a scope of proposals for the committee to table.

The software patent directive has sparked fierce debate in the software industry, with free and open-source software supporters arguing that there should be no directive at all. At the other extreme, large patent holders such as IBM have been pushing lawmakers to make the software patent law as inclusive as possible.

Arlene McCarthy, chairwoman of the legal affairs committee on this debate, said earlier this month she is not prepared to consider any proposals for amendments that do not acknowledge the patentability of software, therefore appearing to cut out the voice of the open and free software community.

If the legal affairs committee agrees on the amendments at its 10 June meeting, the directive will be debated by the European Parliament at its plenary session at the end of next month.


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