After years of debate, the European Parliament has thrown out a software directive that would have created a uniform way of patenting software across the EU.
Many small to medium sized companies had expressed their concerns about the legislation prior to the vote, saying that unless software was excluded from patentability it would have an adverse affect on their businesses.
Should it have become law, it would have given large software vendors the means to identify, or suggest, patent infringements by small companies that would then not have the resources to investigate the claim, encouraging frivolous patents because of the fear of litigation.
Jonas Öberg, vice-president of the Free Software Foundation Europe, said that the rejection of the proposed law reaffirmed the 1973 European Patent Convention (EPC), which excludes software from patentability.
So European law regarding patents will remain as it is written today, meaning that computer programs may still be protected by copyright and patents can only be granted for ‘technical innovation’.
Ironically, however, that hasn’t stopped the The European Patent Office (EPO) from ignoring this convention, granting approximately 30.000 software patents over the past few years.