The European Commission (EC) is backing the open-source software community in Europe in its battle to restrict software patent-protection.

EC competition officials met on Wednesday with colleagues in charge of drafting a new European Union-wide law on software patents, to press the case for limiting the scope of such law.

The EC fears an overly protective patents regime in Europe will hinder competition, by assisting large software manufacturers in maintaining dominance.

A person familiar with the discussions said the concerns of the competition officials have been met: "We haven't agreed a final position but I don't anticipate any further difficulties in getting the draft directive approved within the Commission," he said.

The approach being adopted by the Commission will allow only software of a technical nature to be patented, and it will deny patents to business methods.

The US and Japan have a much broader definition of what can be patented. The US only requires that an application must make a useful contribution, and not necessarily a technical one. It and Japan both permit patents for business methods.

Software of a technical nature will include applications that boost processing speeds. Business methods include online retailer Amazon's 'one click' shopping function, which it patented in the US, but not in Europe.

Amazon sought a court injunction against rival online bookseller Barnes & Noble for using the same one-click shopping function on its Web site. However, Barnes & Noble successfully appealed and the injunction was lifted.