Poland Comes Through! - Software Patents Off the Agenda This Year

Tuesday, December 21 2004 @ 10:26 AM EST

This just in. Poland refused to go along with the software patent rubber stamp:

"The Software Patent Directive has been withdrawn from the Agenda of the Agricultural Council. Poland's minister Marcinski requested it firmly at the beginning of the meeting. The Commissioner expressed regret, but the A-item has been deleted and will not be decided this year."

Here is the press release from NoSoftwarePatents:



Undersecretary Wlodzimierz Marcinski asks for additional time to prepare a "constructive declaration" -- Software patent debate is wide open-- Software patent critics: "The Polish government deserves greatest admiration for its courage!"

Brussels (21 December 2004). In a totally unexpected turn of events, the EU Council took its proposal for a software patent directive off its agenda during today's meeting. Actually the item had been slated for debateless approval as a so-called "A" item. Polish undersecretary Wlodzimierz Marcinski asked for additional time in order to be able to write up a "constructive declaration". The meeting chairman accomodated the request since no country raised objections. The EU Commission expressed its regrets but also accepted this decision.

After the political positions of several countries had changed, the proposal had no more qualified majority, but the Council wanted to decide on the basis of a majority that existed on May 18th. Florian Mueller, campaign manager of NoSoftwarePatents.com, commented: "The Polish government deserves greatest admiration for its courage! At times it looked like the enemies of democracy would prevail in the EU Council and force a decision that lacked a legitimate majority. Now Europe has the opportunity to have a constructive debate on the severe shortcomings of the current Council text, under the new Luxembourgish EU presidency next year. Even at Christmas time, Europe has nothing to give away -- and particularly we can't give our domestic software markets away to a few large U.S. corporations that prefer a litigious environment over a competitive market!"

Council Lost Qualified Majority, Wanted to Formalize Decision Regardless

On December 7th, Belgian minister of economic affairs Marc Verwilghen had told the Belgian parliament that the "the qualified majority [for software patents] no longer exists". The Dutch parliament had passed a resolution on July 1st, asking its government to abstain, but the Dutch government decided to ignore the will of its parliament. The Polish government reiterated on November 16th that it "cannot support the current proposal" but was pressured by the Dutch EU presidency and other countries to support the decision. At times it looked like Poland would give in to that pressure.

Austrian conservative MEP Othmar Karas, vice president of the largest group in the European Parliament (EPP-ED), had warned: "It would be downright anti-democratic to adopt a proposal that has no more qualified majority on the day of the official decision."

Several countries, including France, Hungary, Poland, Latvia and the Netherlands, want to add statements to the Council's decision by which they would distance themselves from the very position they voted for.

In a previous statement on www.NoSoftwarePatents.com, Linus Torvalds and other European software developers had already denounced the Council's current proposal as "deceptive, dangerous, and democratically illegitimate".

Last-Minute Political and Diplomatic Activity

In a flurry of last-minute activity, a small demonstration had taken place outside of a German government building in Berlin. The mayor of Munich yesterday contacted the German federal government and asked to reopen the negotiations in the EU Council on the software patent directive. The city of Munich had temporarily suspended its Linux migration project in the summer over patent-related concerns. On November 18th, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer had warned Asian governments that they would face patent litigation if using the Linux operating system instead of Microsoft's Windows product.

About the NoSoftwarePatents.com Campaign

The NoSoftwarePatents.com campaign was launched on October 20th in initially 12 languages and is supported by three IT companies (1&1, Red Hat, and MySQL AB). More information on the campaign is available on the campaign Web site.