Given the fact that world-wide a large number of de-facto software patents exist (even if a jargon is used that suggests these patents to be of another nature) it is already now important for the EU to initiate substantial research and development for the clarification of the questions a-d mentioned above. On the basis of such work technology can be developed that takes into account all existing patent databases. In successive stages limited possibilities for the protection of
By doing this kind of work the EU will possibly lead the way in sophisticated use of software patent databases while at the same time preparing for patenting regulations that really work. In terms of software engineering these regulations themselves are just some form of standard concerning the software process. It is clear that such a standard should only be enforced if it has substantial informal backing and if the technology supporting it is sufficiently sophisticated.
We expect that in the long run software patents will indeed emerge and that this will lead to a wealth of supporting technology. What is at stake here, is the risk that the EU misses the opportunity to leap ahead by developing sophisticated legislation in which software is a first class citizen and also misses the opportunity to develop the technology for supporting such legislation.
That leads us to this position: a sophisticated patenting system for (categories of) computer software will enhance software technology in the EU, provided that the considerations given here are addressed on a reasonably grand and effective scale. Introduction of a software patenting system without these prerequisites in place will have disappointing effects. The opposition against the proposed directive as well as its rejection in the parliament are a manifestation of these disappointing effects.