Open-source software developers are second only to corporations in voicing opinions in a consultation process about the future of Europe's patent regime, the EC (European Commission) said yesterday.

In a consultation proceeding conducted earlier this year by the EC, businesses including IT vendors accounted for 40 percent of the 2,515 written submissions, while the open-source community accounted for 24 percent.

However, while companies replied individually, the open-source responses were mostly standard replies, and the bulk of these have been written by one person: Florian Mueller, the founder of the campaign group that succeeded in sinking a previous proposed law on software patents.

"I published a reply on the internet and it's been submitted by several companies and individuals," Mueller said in a recent telephone interview.

Mueller resigned from lobbying activities at the end of last year but he has returned in order to fight efforts for a single, community-wide patent.

At present, innovators have to apply to the European Patent Office in Munich for a patent. They then have to register their patents in each EU (European Union) country where they want to use their invention.

The system is four times more expensive than the system in place in the US and changing it has become a top priority in the EU.

At the beginning of this year the EC, the EU's executive and regulatory branch, said it was making one final effort to reach agreement on the Community Patent, which has been a dream of European politicians for over 30 years.

It launched the consultation with industry, trade groups, academics and patent lawyers. The EC's findings from the consultation have been made public ahead of next week's hearing on the subject in Brussels. Next week's hearing will conclude the process. The EC will then have to decide whether to pursue the Community Patent or shelve the project.