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somebody tell me whether computer software is patentable!

17 November 2009

For those of you keeping up to speed with the debate on whether computer programs are patentable in Europe, I had a recent insight from Lord Hoffman who was speaking at the Midlands Intellectual Property Society. Discussing what can and cannot be patented, Lord Hoffman grouped non-patentable inventions into those which of themselves have no practical application (including programs for computers) and those which essentially cover human behaviour (including business methods). This categorisation although not used in the legislation, is a helpful way of keeping a reality check when looking at what is becoming an increasingly dense area of debate.

Does your invention have a practical application?  If so, it may be patentable, even if it incorporates a computer program. We’re hoping the Enlarged Board of Appeal at the European Patent Office will shed some further light on the subject, but Lord Hoffman agrees that the EPO may not even have jurisdiction to answer the relevant questions which have been asked of it. Life’s never easy.

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