16 January 2009

Software Patents: January Patents Limited's Application

As I have to present a talk for our seminar on Software Patents after Symbian and Bilski in Liverpool on 5 Feb 2009 I thought I would have a look at the Comptroller's decisions since Symbian Ltd v Comptroller-General [2008] EWCA Civ 1066 to see whether there had been any change in the Office's approach to software and business method patents since the CA's decision.

The official line from the IPO is that this case has not made much difference.   In "Applying the Aerotel/Macrossan Test" the Office revisited four cases that had been decided before Symbian and concluded that they would have been decided in exactly the same way now.  And yet I wonder. Only one case has come before an hearing officer since Symbian and that was a win for the applicant.

In January Patent Ltd.'s application the invention was a combined electronic point of sale device for buying credits for mobile telephones. The examiner had rejected the application on the grounds that the invention was nothing more than a computer program and method of doing business as such. As the hearing officer, Mrs Chalmers, summarized it:
"In the examiner’s view, the EPOS apparatus is entirely conventional and the contribution lies in the provision of a software control module for an existing EPOS apparatus to provide mobile telephone credit for a customer and invoice the credit purchase on the EPOS apparatus."
She concluded that the invention went beyond the mere programming of an existing EPOS apparatus to provide mobile telephone credit:
"the contribution lies in providing a better EPOS apparatus capable of handling mobile telephone credit purchases and other retail transactions comprising, in combination, a software control module operable to provide mobile telephone credit for a customer and invoice the purchase of the credit; means for printing a top-up voucher on the printer of the EPOS apparatus; and means for printing with the printer the value of the top-up voucher onto a customer’s receipt as part of a single or multiple retail transaction.for a customer and invoice the credit purchase". 
In other words, if I am not being unfair to the hearing officer, the arrangement of some conventional electronic point of sale and voucher credit apparatus plus some programming and some output devices.  Would that really have got through before Symbian, I wonder?  

Anyway,  come along to our talk on 5 Feb 2009. Listen to Julyan Elbro the man from the IPO who actually has responsibility for excluded matter who has written all the practice notices on patentability.    Thanks to Kirwans' generous sponsorship this seminar will only set you back a pony.  How much would anyone else would charge you for 2 1/2 hours CPD for the SRA?   What a bargain. Fill out the form below and send it back to us with your cheque and make your firm's training partner happy.

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