Atlantic-striding James Boyle opines in the current Financial Times about European software patents. As usual, Boyle is clear and concise on complex issues wittily cutting to the chase and in some cases cutting close to the bone.

European geekdom is in a frenzy. The cause? A key vote on a proposed Software Patent Directive is due to be held in the European Parliament on July 6th.

Except, depending on whom you listen to, the directive is not really about software patents at all. Some argue that as its official name indicates, it is only about “computer implemented inventions.” They claim it will only cover systems that use software to control something in the external world, traffic lights say, but not software that just runs to be.. well.. software, such as an internet browser or a spread sheet program.

Opponents strongly disagree. They claim the directive not only allows expansive “pure” software patents, it also might allow for the toxic US innovation of “business method patents.” If a normal patent covers a new design for a corkscrew or a way of cooking burgers, a business method patent covers the idea of opening a bottle of wine, or of selling fast food.