EU patents

The EU is pushing ahead with its plans for patenting of software. Technology giants win with EU patents plan – Technology – International Herald Tribune:

The 26-member Legal Affairs Committee agreed late Monday that companies could have EU-wide patent protection for computerized inventions including washing machines, cellphones and antilock brake systems as long as they make a technical contribution to further innovation in a particular field of technology.
The committee voted against several more stringent amendments in approving a measure that still bans patents on so-called business methods, like’s “one-click” online purchase feature.
. . .
The proposed patent protection would also extend to computer programs, but only when the software is used in realizing inventions.
. . .
Debate over the bill has divided those who say patents are needed to reward companies for innovation and others – mostly from smaller companies – who say they are concerned that they would be shut out of software they have been able to use for free.

I’m sure that open-source software community will see this as a defeat – and the big software companies as a victory. I take no sides in that fight – but I am glad that the Europeans didn’t go down the road of patenting business methods.
And if you are not worried about business method patents, try this as a thought-experiment: imagine what might have happened if Franciscan monk and mathematician Luca Pacioli had patented his system for double-entry bookkeeping?
By the way, according to Luca Pacioli: The Father of Accounting

While Brother Luca is often called the “Father of Accounting,” he did not invent the system. Instead, he simply described a method used by merchants in Venice during the Italian Renaissance period.

Under today’s US standards of “obviousness”, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he would not have gotten a patent.

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