Patent a Computer Program

Three requirements for a patent. In the UK the relevant law is the Patents Act 1977. Your patent must be new, involve an inventive step and be capable of industrial application. Problems will arise if your invention comprises a computer program or method for doing business. Where it is solely in relation to it computer programs or business methods it will not be regarded as an inventions. However, do not lose all faith as patent protection can be obtained for inventions implemented by computer programs. As lawyers we need to ask whether the invention makes a technical contribution to what is already known in that field. A patent is unobtainable if the only inventive step relates to matter which is excluded from patent protection, such as a computer program.

The UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) takes a negative approach to software and business method patents when compared to the European Patent Office (EPO) and the US.

There is a four-step test to decide whether a software or business method invention is capable of being patented (Aerotel Ltd v Telco Holdings Ltd (and others) and Macrossan’s Application [2006] EWCA Civ 1371).

To adhere to the 4 stage test you need to :

Construe the claim properly.

Identify what the actual contribution is.

Does it fall within the the excluded subject matter.

Check whether the contribution is technical in nature.

The Court of Appeal in Aerotel found that a telephone system did fall within the normal 4 stage test whereas as in Macrossan it did not. The latter concerned a system for preparing documents for incorporating a company. It was not considered having any technical affect beyond running a computer program.

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