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Heated Demonstrations Precede Europe's Vote On Software Patents

The issue of software patents for Europe heated up as some 250 demonstrators descended on members of the European Parliament to argue in favor of strong software patent laws.
The issue of software patents for Europe heated up Thursday as some 250 demonstrators descended on members of the European Parliament to argue in favor of strong software patent laws.

Earlier this week Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee ruled in favor of patent protection for software in certain instances. Parliament is scheduled to vote on the issue next month, but with 25 European countries and various European Union agencies and political bodies scheduled to debate the issue for months, a resolution seems far away.

Generally, the issue pits Microsoft, on one side, with some computer companies and users. Both sides have been demonstrating on the issue for months.

"The European Commission, the European Patent Office and the European Council all want to enforce patents," said Erik Josefsson, a Brussels-based spokesman for the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII), which generally wants the current European patent system changed as it relates to software. "The only group saying 'no' to patents is Parliament."

Intellectual property (IP) including patents have been taking on new importance in recent months as battles break out over ownership of software. In recent years, Microsoft has filed an increasing number of software patents and the software colossus has complained that open source software like Linux violates many Microsoft patents.

The debate took on carnival overtones Thursday when a group supporting Microsoft's position called the Campaign for Creativity launched a balloon "symbolizing the risks of allowing European Innovation to float away." Both sides maintain their approach leads to better innovation.

"Over 250 of us gathered in Brussels to appeal to Members of Parliament," said Daniel Doll-Steinberg, CEO of British-based software publishing company Tribeka. He added that eliminating patents will cause "irreparable damage."

The issue has defied solution for several years.

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