Software patents in Europe: game on

Should Europe have software patents? The discussion is back in full force. After the European Parliament rejected patents on software in 2005, things went quiet for a while.

Now the European Parliament is about to decide on setting up a single patent for Europe, known as the “unitary patent”. This is a chance to get rid of software patents. But if we don’t manage to achieve a real change in the current proposal, software patents will become even more entrenched in Europe.

On September 17 and 18, the Parliament’s Legal Affairs committee (also known as JURI) will discuss a proposal on the unitary patent. This “patent package” has been prepared by the European Commission and the European Council.

The proposal has several serious problems. Among them are:

  • the proposal does nothing to prevent patents on computer programs
  • a total lack of transparency in the preparation of the proposal
  • lots of rotten compromises for political expediency
  • the EU would delegate the power to set patent policy to the European Patent Organisation (EPO). The EPO takes a rather maximalist view on the patent system, and has been happily issuing patents on software in direct contravention of the European Patent Convention.
  • patent disputes would be resolved by an EPO court, with no possibility of appeal to the European Court of Justice. This means that the final decision on major cases will be made by narrowly specialised patent judges, rather than by general judges who can properly weigh the costs and benefits of a given patent to society.

We have less than two weeks to convince the members of the Legal Affairs committee to amend the patent package and remove the worst defects. Our  key goal is to have computer patents explicitely excluded from patentability.

What you can do:

  • talk to the MEPs on the Legal Affairs committee about software patents and the unitary patent. APRIL have set up a tool for this purpose. Please use it. The site lists a good number of arguments which you can use. At FSFE, we’ll be providing more arguments shortly. As always when talking to politicians, it’s essential that you stay calm and polite at all times. If you’d like to let us know briefly how the call with your MEP went, please dent / tweet @fsfe, or send mail to
  • encourage your employer to write to a member of the Legal Affairs committee from their country.
  • spread the word. Blog, dent, tweet

Let’s go.