A vote on whether to patent software EU-wide — and if so, what kind? — is coming up in the European Parliament MEPs this Wednesday will have a second reading of a highly controversial directive. It has been four years in debate. Supporters and opponents of the legislation all demand more clarity. The text says software for computer-assisted inventions should be patentable; This can apply to a vast variety of things we use every day, from the washing machine, car brakes, mobile phones… But so-called ‘pure’ software is specifically excluded from the directive. There is a David and Goliath aspect to the battle. It pits small and medium-sized companies against larger enterprises. The first group, with more limited financial resources, wants software use to continue to be governed by copyright law; The second group have serious money they can put into patenting potentially lucrative ideas, the research and development for which can be very costly. Buying a patent can carry a 50,000 euro price tag, steep for those atbasement-level. At the first reading in parliament two years ago the anti-patent camp protested loudly. They insist that innovation itself is at stake, and that this could stifle it. Restrictive amendments made in parliament were rejected by the 25 EU governments last March. More recently, the parliament moved closer to the member states’ position, going against voices that have called for the field of patentable innovations to be narrowed.