McCreevy backs EU-wide software patents


Internal Markets Commissioner Charlie McCreevy today called on the technology sector to back the idea of a pan-European software patent system.

Mr McCreevy said a community patent system would allow Europe to catch up on the United States, which is leading the race in innovation.

The EU's internal market and services commissioner said he would not make a new proposal in this area after the European Parliament recently rejected the proposal for an EU patents directive.

Mr McCreevy said: "The commission's ambition was simple and relatively modest: to codify the existing law which had evolved through practice and the decisions of courts. The idea was to make this area less of a minefield and create more certainty. The hope was that clearer rules would help innovation."

The commissioner said increased certainty in the EU patents regime was necessary as he addressed representatives from the high-technology industries at an ICT Ireland and Irish Software Association meeting in Dublin.

"As far as the economic climate is concerned, there is a way forward. Despite sometimes near militant resistance in one or two member states to economic reform, including measures to ramp up innovation across Europe, I remain confident that the flight from reality will in due course be reversed," he said.

The EU legislation, which was attempting to harmonise the software patenting regime for innovations across Europe, was first discussed in 2002. Major technology companies were calling for an EU patent on software amid worries that a lack of patent protection may allow manufacturers to make low-cost copies of their innovations.

The anti-software patent movement, and other smaller companies, argued against any proposals stating it would stifle innovation.

But Bernadette Cullinan, chairwoman of the ISA, said an important method of promoting innovation in the sector was through protecting intellectual property rights.

She said the industry would welcome any proposals to further protect rights in this sector.