The European Parliament has voted overwhelming against a controversial bill that might have led to software being patented.
Euro MPs voted 648 to 14 to reject the Computer Implemented Inventions Directive, declaring that that no one liked it in its current form.
The European Commission responded by saying that it would not draw up or submit any more versions of the original proposal.
Hotshot hi-tech firms insisted that the directive was essential to protect their investment in research and development, but opponents were having none of it, saying that the bill would have a detrimental effect on small firms and open source developers.
Today’s vote was on the 100+ amendments made to the original bill which was designed to give EU-wide patent protection for computerised inventions (like CAT scanners and ABS car-brake systems) as well as software when it was used to realise inventions.
The bill was supposed to get rid of individual EU nations’ patent dispute systems and replace it with a common EU procedure. Instead, the old system of patents being handled by national patent offices will continue, without any judiciary control by the European Court of Justice.
Opponents of the bill aren’t exactly whooping in the streets, with a poster on the urban75 bulletin boards astutely observing, “Don’t think that the fight is over; this was only rejected because both sides voted against it:
The anti-patent lobby just think the whole idea is ridiculous…and the pro-patent lobby feared that the amendments added to the bill would take away their power to patent everything, and thus also voted against the bill.”
With the European Parliament voting so decisively against it, small European software companies have a better chance of competing on a level playing field for now, but with big corporate interests at heart we don’t think we’ve heard the last of software patents.
It’s also worth noting that there’s now nothing to stop individual countries legislating software patents on their own.