[Nottingham] Euro Software Patents

Martin Garton nottingham at mailman.lug.org.uk
Tue Jul 1 18:48:00 2003

On Tue, 1 Jul 2003, Robert Davies wrote:

> I am not sure where the Labour MEPs (or Lib Dems) stand on this issue,

I wrote very briefly to Nick Clegg (Lib Dem MEP who lives in Ruddington) a
while ago. Incidentally, I believe Nick is chief whip for the Lib Dems in
the European Parliament.

I am sure he will not mind me reproducing his response:


Dear Mr Garton,

Thank you for emailing me with regard to the Software Patentability 

The main issue under consideration in the development of this Directive is 
under what circumstances patents should be granted for software 

The main bone of contention is whether software programmes are a technical 
invention, and should thus be patentable, or whether software programmes, 
due to their nature as a collection of algorithms, cannot be defined as an 
invention per se, and should thus not be subject to patentability laws. If 
software programmes are defined as codes, or algorithms, then patenting is 
not necessary as the code in its written form is protected by copyright 

By allowing patents for software, there is a risk that software innovation 
will become restricted, due to the expense to smaller companies to pay the 
licence fee to a large company to use its patent. On the other hand, by 
permitting patenting of software, smaller innovators can benefit from 
licensing out their software programme.

Whilst I see the value of harmonising European standards, in its current 
form the Software Patentability Directive proposed by the European 
Commission would amend the patentability criteria laid down in 1972 by the 
European Patent Convention to a patenting regime modelled on that of the 
United States, at the very moment when critics in that country are 
forcefully condemning it. The proposal has also been strongly criticised 
by the Economic and Social Council of the EU and the German Monopoly 
Commission, as well as by Liberal Democrats in this country. 

This legislation is still in its very early stages - it will be some time 
before the final shape of the Directive is known. However, please rest 
assured that along with my Liberal Democrat peers I will be working to 
amend the Directive as it stands.

Yours sincerely,
Nick Clegg MEP


I was mostly encouraged by what he said, but there are clearly still some
major concerns to me.

I have since written a more lengthy letter which included asking about the
possibility of meeting with him to discuss it further.

I have not yet recieved any response, but I would be very happy if several
others from the region would join me should Nick be prepared to meet and
discuss this.