Software Patents: New Guidance from the IPO
On 8 Dec 2008 Sean Dennehey signed a new practice note on the patenmtability of computer programs to take account of the CA's decision in Symbian. The main changes relate to:
- what constitutes a technical contribution for the purpose of determing whether a program is patentable; and
- clarificaiton of the exclusions in s.1 of the Patents Act 1977.
The Intellectual Property Office had previously recognized inventions that either solve technical problems external to a computer or solve "a technical problem within the computer" as potentially patentable inventions. The sea change of Symbian is that
"improving the operation of a computer by solving a problem arising from the way the computer was programmed - for example, a tendency to crash due to conflicting library program calls - can also be regarded as solving "a technical problem within the computer" if it leads to a more reliable computer. Thus, a program that results in a computer running faster or more reliably may be considered to provide a technical contribution even if the invention solely addresses a problem in the programming."
The other development is that examiners will now object to the computerization of what would be a pure mental act if done without the aid of a computer as both a mental act and a computer program as such. A similar logic will apply to the other exclusions.
Amplification opf this new practice will be given by Julian Elbro, Deputy Director of Patents at the IPO and the person responsible for IPO practice in the area of excluded matter, at our seminar on Software Patents after Symbian and Bilski at Liverpool on 5 February 2009. Click here to register your interest.