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UK Patent Office opens software patent consultation

Should we or shouldn't we? So far, it seems impartial...

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The UK patent office has opened a consultation exercise on patenting of software and business methods, and has posted a pretty detailed and lucid questionnaire on its Web site. It's also kicked off a discussion group on the subject, and is asking for responses from all concerned - business, software authors, users and consumers - before December 15th.

The document reveals that 15 per cent of patents being granted in the UK are now software-based, but it clearly differentiates between the position in the UK, where an invention has to be "new, not obvious, and useful," and the position in Europe. There it also has to give rise to a technical effect. "For example, a new and non-obvious program which gave a computer more efficient memory usage and so enabled it to run faster would be patentable because of the technical effect it has on the operation of the computer. But a new program for a computer game would not currently be patentable because it has no technical effect."

Got that? The European system also doesn't allow patenting of business methods at the moment, but as the UK document notes, a separate consultation is being run by the European Commission. This could result in European system coming more into line with the US model, where software and business methods patents are allowed.

As we've noted here in the past, the first stages of the European consultation look pretty multinational-friendly, and are provoking stiff opposition. ®

Related Links

UK Patent Office consultation
European consultation

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Software patents: will Europe roll over for the multinationals?

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