The European Parliament just voted in first reading on the Commission's proposal on patenting of computer-implemented inventions. BEUC is opposed to it in its current form. Clarification of the scope, effect and jurisdiction for the directive is needed.
Although the Commission states it does not wish to extend the patent protection currently available for computer implemented inventions, we are concerned the directive could have this very effect, because of its unclear wording. The lack of clarity or definition applies particularly to the distinction between what is technical (and potentially patentable) and non-technical and therefore excluded from patentability.
We therefore believe there is considerable legal uncertainty regarding the scope and effect of the directive. The proposal is very much open to divergent interpretations and perhaps also to manipulation of claims for patents.
One of the arguments of those in favour of the directive is that it will support the European software development industry. In fact it may lead to a concentration of software products (and patents) in a limited number of companies which would raise problems of monopoly. This would have a negative impact on SMEs, and in turn on prices of software products. This will harm consumers choice, both in terms of quantity and quality.
The provisions of the draft directive on enforcement of intellectual property rights (including patents) heighten our concerns about this directive. It will severely restrict consumer rights and its existence will make us even more vigilant in ensuring a narrow interpretation of the scope of industrial property rights.
The European Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee voted in June in favour of extensive and unlimited patents on software. MEPs voted in plenary to patent computer-related inventions, such as household appliances or machine tools, but not software programmes. BEUC believes a fundamental review is needed before a final decision on the proposal can be taken.