Software Group Seeks EU Patent Reform

Business Software Alliance Europe's initiative is intended to make it easier for small- and medium-sized enterprises to obtain and defend patents.

The BSA has called for reform to Europes patent system, in the same week that Microsoft put forward a U.S. patent reform plan and called for harmonization among international patent regimes.

The Business Software Alliance Europe on Monday suggested a number of reforms designed largely to make it easier for SMEs (small- and medium-sized enterprises) to obtain and defend patents.

Some of the proposals, such as ending fee diversion, are identical to steps proposed by Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith during a daylong seminar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.

The reforms address the deeper problems underlying discontent over the patent process, a BSA spokesman said.

The spokesman said the BSAs proposals are separate from Microsofts announcement.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read more about Microsofts proposals for reforming the U.S. patent system.

Microsoft has said it is working with the BSA and other industry associations on its U.S. initiatives.

IT patents, and particularly software patents, are coming under increasing scrutiny, with a wide range of companies citing problems they consider to be inherent in a liberal patent system.

In Europe, the recent controversy surrounding patent law has called attention to the differences between regimes in the United States and Europe, and has led to a power struggle between different branches of European Union government.

At the heart of the argument is how patents should be best used to protect IT companies and spur innovation, with open-source organizations and smaller businesses arguing that software should be protected by copyright instead of patents.

Software patents disproportionately benefit the large companies that can afford to build up intellectual-property stockpiles and defend them in court, critics say.

Next Page: The BSAs seven proposals.