Is There No Stopping European Software Patent Law?

Opinion: If this law-which has proven impossible to kill-isn't overturned, many European-based firms could go out of business or be consumed by large U.S. software firms.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the major setback the proposed European software patent law had suffered at the hands of the elected European parliament and congratulated Poland for being a major obstacle to its adoption.

/zimages/5/28571.gifPoland takes a stand against software patents. Click here to read why Jim Rapoza calls it "heroic."

But it turns out that my pirogies and Polish beer celebration was very premature. Like the bad guy in a slasher film, the proposed European software patent law has proven impossible to kill. And now, like Jason or Michael Myers, it looks as if it will be nearly impossible to stop.

The last few weeks have turned out to be quite an education on how democracy works in the European Union. I hope I can be forgiven for thinking that software patents in Europe were dead in the water after they were overwhelmingly rejected by the Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament and a strong majority of the parliament itself.

But it turns out that the European Parliament, the part of the European government that is actually elected by the people, has very little power in comparison to the unelected bureaucrats in the European Commission.

After the parliament requested that the current software patent proposal be scrapped and that the process for a software patent law restart in the parliament, the unelected European Commission completely rejected the parliaments request and moved ahead with pushing through the old software patent law. I also wouldnt be surprised if the European Commission then laughed at the parliament, mooned it, and said that the parliaments father was a hamster and its mother smelled of elderberries.

Then, on March 7, the European Council—which could have stopped the proposed software patent law—refused to do so, essentially on the basis that it would set a bad precedent for stopping future ill-conceived laws.

/zimages/5/28571.gifFor more on these latest developments, read "EU Council Formally Adopts Controversial Patent Proposal."

So, now, the anti-patent forces in Europe are in pretty dire straights. On the plus side, the parliament has already voted against the software patent law and is probably a little peeved at being completely ignored by the European Commission. But on the negative side are the considerable limitations that European law places on the parliaments ability to alter proposed laws at this point in the process.

To reject or even amend part of the proposed software patent law, an absolute majority of the parliament is required. This means that if 200 of the 367 members of parliament show up for the vote and 150 vote against the patent law, it will still pass because every absentee will count as a yes vote.

Next Page: Small glimmer of hope.