UK rejects US-style software patents

And no to business process patents too

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Reducing security risks from open source software

The UK government has plumped against any changes to software patent laws, argueing that business methods should remain unpatentable.

It is pushing for the European Commission to take this line and reject the example of theUS which has extended patent rights in these areas. At the same time, the government say current laws are unclear and urgent European action is needed.

Consumer Affairs Minister Dr Kim Howells said: "We shall be pressing them for an early Directive which embodies our conclusions, and with which the Convention can then be aligned."

But within the EC there are at least five directorates which are interested in software and business patent laws and the debate is fierce. In particular there is the pro-patenting Internal Market directorate and the open source friendly Information Society directorate.

The UK announcement follows a period of consultation inviting responses to the question 'Should Patents Be Granted for Computer Software or Ways of Doing Business?' The EC Internal Markets directorate launched its own consultation process in October with a deadline of 15 December.

The results are expected in April after quite a bit of reconciliation between directorates. But many of the UK's responses were cc'd from the EC consultation so the UK Patent Office hope its results will be a microcosm of the commissions.

The UK Patent Office said it had been planning its own consultation process, because it was fed up with waiting for the EC to get its act together.

But then the EC consultation came out, taking it by surprise. The upshot is a too-short consultation period, the UK Patent Office argues.

But in the absence of action, companies can continue to file patent applications, for both software and business processes, with the European Patent Office. And US businesses are getting the jump on European operations by doing this.

Jeremy Philpott, an information officer with the UK Patent Office, said the Internal Market directorate had been arguing that the EC should align its position on software and business process patents with the US, something to which the UK is now opposed.

"If you stop and think long enough the US has thrown themselves into a hole. They've gone for patents on business methods which are very good for restraining other people trade. You can patent ways of undercutting your competitor - go help anyone else," he said.

As for software E-Minister Patricia Hewitt said: "Our key principle is that patents should be for technological innovations. So a program for a new machine tool should be patentable but a non-technological innovation, such as grammar-checking software for a word-processor, should not be."

"The majority of those who responded agree with the Government and oppose patents for ways of doing business on the Internet."

She pointed out that some people who responded to the consultation see patents as a threat to development of new software.

Consumer Affairs Minister Dr Kim Howells said: "The patent system is there to stimulate innovation and benefit the consumer. This is the test we have applied to determine what should, and should not, be patentable in the fields of computer software and ways of doing business." ®

Related Links

'Should Patents Be Granted for Computer Software or Ways of Doing Business': The Government's Conclusions
Summary Analysis of Respondents' Views
Details of the Commission's consultation are available on the Internal Market's directorate

Related Stories

US patent mess will get worse before it gets better

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
White? Male? You work in tech? Let us guess ... Twitter? We KNEW it!
Grim diversity numbers dumped alongside Facebook earnings
HP, Microsoft prove it again: Big Business doesn't create jobs
SMEs get lip service - what they need is dinner at the Club
Bose says today is F*** With Dre Day: Beats sued in patent battle
Music gear giant seeks some of that sweet, sweet Apple pie
Amazon Reveals One Weird Trick: A Loss On Almost $20bn In Sales
Investors really hate it: Share price plunge as growth SLOWS in key AWS division
Dude, you're getting a Dell – with BITCOIN: IT giant slurps cryptocash
1. Buy PC with Bitcoin. 2. Mine more coins. 3. Goto step 1
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
prev story


Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.