EU rejects patents directive

6 Jul 2005

The European Parliament this morning voted to reject the Common Position on the Computer Implemented Inventions (CII) Directive.

The result will be a blow to the many large technology firms that campaigned for the law, saying it would protect and encourage research and development. However, the outcome will delight many other groups, including individual inventors and the open source movement, which were outspoken critics.

In a statement ICT Ireland, the IBEC lobby group for Ireland’s technology sector, said it was “disappointed” with the outcome and that the parliament had “lost an opportunity to further Europe’s development as a knowledge economy”.

But the statement also noted the directive, which was subject to some 178 amendments before the vote, was not the legislation that had been originally envisaged and had become compromised. “The CII directive aimed to harmonise existing patent law across Europe. If the directive had been accepted, it would have made it less expensive and complex for companies to protect their inventions, but it would not have changed the existing patent requirements. However, there were several unhelpful amendments proposed to the directive, which sought to alter patent law as it currently stands, and we do welcome the decision of the MEPs to reject these amendments. What we are left with now is the status quo and a clean canvas on which to work in future.”

It continued: “Irish MEPs came under immense pressure to pass amended legislation that would have damaged Europe’s competitiveness. Many Irish companies, large and small, wrote letters, made calls and paid visits to Irish MEPs urging them not to adopt any of the extreme amendments that had been proposed to the directive. The intellectual property regime in Europe would have looked very different if the more extreme amendments proposed to the CII directive had been adopted.”

UPDATE: Following the EU Parliament vote, a number of other organisations have given their reaction to the decision. Expressing its disappointment at the news, Irish Software Association (ISA) director Michele Quinn, said: “If this directive had come into force, it would not have changed the existing patent requirements but would have made it less expensive and complex for companies to protect their inventions, which is a critical issue for Ireland’s indigenous software industry which employs over 15,000 people.”

The Business Software Alliance, the pan-European software lobby group, said that although the vote safeguarded the existing patents system, there was still a clear need for reform. “Going forward, the focus should be on ensuring that companies and individuals Europe-wide can continue to reap the benefits of patent protection,” said Francisco Mingorance, BSA Europe’s director of Public Policy. “The BSA hopes that the debate has cast a spotlight on the need for patent reform that is responsive to inventors large and small.”

However, this possibility was firmly dismissed by the European Commission, which said it would respect the decision of the European Parliament and no further effort would be made to keep the legislation alive. “The legislative procedure is terminated,” it said in a statement. “There will be no new proposal coming from the Commission in this area.”

By Brian Skelly