UK rejects US-style software patents

And no to business process patents too

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

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

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Kate Bush: Don't make me HAVE CONTACT with your iPHONE
Can't face sea of wobbling fondle implements. What happened to lighters, eh?
Video of US journalist 'beheading' pulled from social media
Yanked footage featured British-accented attacker and US journo James Foley
Caught red-handed: UK cops, PCSOs, specials behaving badly… on social media
No Mr Fuzz, don't ask a crime victim to be your pal on Facebook
Ballmer leaves Microsoft board to spend more time with his b-balls
From Clippy to Clippers: Hi, I see you're running an NBA team now ...
Online tat bazaar eBay coughs to YET ANOTHER outage
Web-based flea market struck dumb by size and scale of fail
Amazon takes swipe at PayPal, Square with card reader for mobes
Etailer plans to undercut rivals with low transaction fee offer
Assange™: Hey world, I'M STILL HERE, ignore that Snowden guy
Press conference: ME ME ME ME ME ME ME (cont'd pg 94)
Call of Duty daddy considers launching own movie studio
Activision Blizzard might like quality control of a CoD film
US regulators OK sale of IBM's x86 server biz to Lenovo
Now all that remains is for gov't offices to ban the boxes
prev story


5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
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.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.