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Europe

EU Parliament Rejects Software Patent Bill

European Union lawmakers voted down a controversial bill on software patents Wednesday, ending what had become one of the biggest legislative battles in the EU for years.

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EU lawmakers shared protesters' reservations about tighter patents

The bill, which was rejected by 648 votes to 14, had pitted big technology companies wanting greater legal protection for their software against small firms worried that patents would keep them from making competitive innovations.

The draft law, which was rejected after its second reading, was a common position drawn up by the 25 member states last March and was four years in the making. It would have seen inventions using computer software in some form -- from washing machines to mobile telephones -- protected by patents.

It is the first time the European Parliament has rejected a text on its second reading without making an attempt at "conciliation" with the members. As it snaked its way through the legislative process, bouncing between the European Commission, member states and the parliament, it stirred up some of the fiercest lobbying in years.

Big vs. little

Big tech companies are in favor of a patent system that would not only protect inventions running a computer program but also the program itself. However, small tech companies want patents to cover only the invention running the program, allowing the software to be used by others.

The prospect of patents protecting the underlying software is in particular worrying to backers of so-called "open source" programs, which rely on the free exchange of ideas to develop software.

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