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Ingrid Marson

Special to CNET

Microsoft has denied threatening to take jobs away from Denmark if the Danish government opposed a controversial European Union directive involving patents and software.

Danish financial newspaper Borsen reported on Tuesday that Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates told the Danish prime minister that he would move all 800 jobs at Navision, a Danish company acquired by Microsoft in 2002, to the United States unless the EU adopted the computer-implemented inventions directive.

Proponents of the directive say it would simplify trade by standardizing national laws and clarifying what, exactly, can and can’t be patented. Opponents say that by, in the words of the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure, “imposing U.S.-style unlimited patentability,” the directive would put power in the hands of megacorporations and stifle innovation. The directive, and the general issue of patents, have become hot-button topics in the debate over open-source versus proprietary software.

The European vice president of Microsoft Business Solutions, Klaus Holse Andersen, denied on Tuesday that the jobs at Navision were ever at risk.

“No, that is not what he said in the meeting,” Andersen told ZDNet UK. “There is no plan for us to close down the site.”

Andersen said the issue of patents had been discussed at the meeting but that this was not related to the jobs at Navision, which is based at Vedbaek in Denmark.

“There has been a general discussion on patents, and this has gone on in many offices,” Andersen said. “We are very much pro the patent law. How (Borsen) made the connection to the Vedbaek site, I’m not sure.”

Following the Borsen report, the Social Democrats, the main opposition party in Denmark, issued a press release entitled, “Blackmail

shall not dictate Danish IT policy,” in which it said corporations have no right to dictate Danish policy.

Andersen said Microsoft has had discussions with the Social Democrats about this press release.

“I’ve just called the Social Democrats,” Andersen said. “It’s unfortunate that they put out the press release before they spoke to Microsoft.”

Prosa, a Danish union for computer professionals, has also criticized Microsoft over Borsen’s allegations.

Microsoft is not the only large company that stands accused of trying to influence the debate about the directive. Last month, Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza reported that the Polish subsidiaries of Siemens, Nokia, Royal Philips Electronics, Ericsson and Alcatel sent a letter to Poland’s prime minister, outlining their concerns about the directive.

The letter implied that the respective companies might reconsider making investments in Poland if the Polish government continued its resistance to the directive, according to a translation of the article provided by antipatent campaigner Florian Mueller.

The Polish government has since said it will no longer stop the Council of the European Union from ratifying the directive, though it will support any country’s request for the directive to be delayed or revised.

Siemens, Nokia, Philips, Ericsson and Alcatel were all unable to respond in time for this article.

Ingrid Marson of ZDNet UK reported from London.