The European Parliament has thrown out a controversial measure to harmonise the patenting of software-related inventions after MEPs said it satisfied no one in its present form.

The assembly voted 648 to 14 to reject the draft and stop the common position adopted by the European Union's 25 member states from becoming law.

The EU Commission, which drafted the measure, said it respected the decision and that it would not put forward any new proposed legislation in this area.

The measure polarised the technology industry, with large firms like Microsoft, Nokia and Siemens saying changes sought by the European Parliament would leave products open to copycat versions from China and elsewhere.

Supporters of open-source or free software had welcomed the changes sought by some MEPs to limit what types of inventions can be patented.

Last night the two biggest groups in the parliament, the European People's Party and the Socialists, said they would vote against the proposals.