EU software patent law delayed by a month

A proposal for a pan-European law on software patents is being delayed by a failure among European parliamentarians to agree on the text, an official at the European Parliament said Monday.

The European Parliament was expected to formulate a position on the proposed E.U. law at a committee meeting this Wednesday, with a view to submitting the law for a vote at the European Parliament’s plenary session in early June.

However, the legal affairs committee, which is leading the debate within the European Parliament, has rescheduled the committee vote for June 10. An official at the Parliament, who asked not to be named, said that there remains too wide a scope of proposals for the committee to table at the plenary session.

The software patent directive has sparked fierce debate in the software industry, with free software and open source software supporters arguing that there should be no directive at all. At the other extreme, large patent-holders such as IBM Corp. have been pushing lawmakers to make the software patent law as inclusive as possible.

Arlene McCarthy, the chairwoman of the legal affairs committee on this debate, said earlier this month she is not prepared to consider any proposals for amendments that do not acknowledge the patentability of software, therefore appearing to cut out the voice of the open and free software community.

If the legal affairs committee agrees on the amendments at its June 10 meeting, the directive will be debated by the European Parliament at its plenary session at the end of June, the Parliament official said.