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Juridical Coup at the European Patent Office

The president of the European Patent Office has, in preemption of political decisions to be taken by European governments, decreed a regulation that authorises patent claims to computer programs. The Eurolinux Alliance calls for the replacement of the board of the European Patent Office by the european governments and the establishment of democratic control over the european patent system.

Munich, Paris -2001-10-22- Without waiting for the expected vote by the European Union of a directive on the limits of patentatibility with regard to software, the European Patent Office just published a new examination directive which extends the realm of patentability to software, business methods and mathematics [1,2], and for the first time officially sanctions direct patent claims to "computer program products" and "computer programs".

This decision constitutes an assault on democracy in Europe and a provocation against European governments, which had publicly stated last November 2000 that they wanted tighter political control over the European Patent Office and decided to preserve the exclusion of computer programs from patentability[3]. This decision also constitutes a violation of article 22 of the European Patent Convention (EPC), which stipulates that only the Enlarged Board of Appeal may take decisions on significant legal issues. However, the European Patent Office has extended the realm of patentability through decisions of low-level appeal courts. The European Patent Office has tried to circumvent the democratic control of European Governments through adventurous administrative processes. The European Patent Office ignores its ruling authorities.[4] The European Patent Office scorns the 80% of software companies who are against software patents.[5, 6]

EuroLinux demands that European governments act firmly.

Current preparations for a directive on the limits of patentability with regard to software, based on the opinion of European Governments and written by the General Directorate for Internal Market, require the European Patent Office to act in a controllable and sensible way. However, control and common sense do not seem to be appropriate terms for the current behaviour of the European Patent Office. Therefore, EuroLinux demands governments to

EuroLinux urges all companies, all software users and all citizens who whish to protect software innovation and free competition to join the 90.000 individual signataries and 300 corporate sponsors of the Eurolinux Petition for a Software Patent Free Europe [7].


  1. EPO modifies the Examination Rules --- Details and Links
  2. EPO: New Rules on Software
  3. EPO press release after the Diplomatic Conference of november 2000
  4. Moses, the Ten Exclusions from Patentability and "stealing with a further ethical effect" --- A tale explaining how the EPO succeeded in patenting the unpatentable.
  5. European Consultation on the Patentability of Computer-Implementable Rules of Organisation and Calculation (= Programs for Computers) (The Results of the European Commission Consultation Exercise: Background and Links)
  6. Acceptable protection of software intellectual property: a survey of software developers and lawyers
  7. Eurolinux Petition for a Software Patent Free Europe

[ EUROLINUX Alliance News | European Commission will propose to replace clear limits on patentability with empty words | Eurolinux Position on the Community Patent | Juridical Coup at the European Patent Office | 2nd meeting of the European Commission's Industrial Property Unit with a Eurolinux delegation | 2001-02-28: Eurolinux letter to the EU patent legislators ]

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