European Parliament agrees on software patent text

The European Parliament voted in favour of a law that goes some way towards limiting the scope for patents on software programs Wednesday.

With 364 voting in favour, 153 against and 33 abstentions, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) appear to have ignored heavy lobbying from both extremes in the debate by opting for a compromise solution.

The Parliament was considering changes to the original text published by the European Commission. Most of the changes were designed to tighten up the wording of the law to make it harder for people to obtain patents.

For example, the MEPs agreed to an amendment, which outlaws the patenting of algorithms. Another accepted amendment explicitly outlaws the patenting of business methods, such as the “one-click” online shopping technique patented in the U.S. by

“Inventions involving computer programs which implement business, mathematical or other methods and do not produce any technical effect beyond the normal physical interactions between a program and the computer, network or other programmable apparatus in which it is run, shall not be patentable,” the amendment read.

This is the first of two votes on the software patent directive in the European Parliament. Before casting their ballots again, the directive, including the amendments agreed on by the MEPs Wednesday, will be debated by the state governments of the 15-member Parliament.