Showdown over European Software PatentsSteve Hamm
Get ready for yet another battle in the European Parliament cloakrooms over the future of software patent law. Back on June 22, the parliament's legal affairs committee voted to allow patents to be issued to protect software. It was a reversal of a vote by the whole parliament two years ago which basically shot down software patents. That surprise move came after a hot and heavy lobbying campaign from open source leaders, who convinced legislators that patents would crimp the innovations from individual programmers, open source folk, and small software shops--which either opposed patents on principle or can't afford to file for them. The European tech bigs had been caught napping by the 2003 vote. But now they're fully engaged and pushing hard for patent liberalization. A vote is scheduled for July 6, and it's hard to guess which way things will go--pro-patent, anti-patent, or back to square one. It will be fascinating to watch how this one turns out.
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