Feeds

Sony's video metadata invention could be patentable in part

Restructure and reapply

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

The Patent Office has rejected Sony's appeal to patent a video recording system because it was computer software, but has said that a claim structured differently could qualify for patenting.

The Patent Office originally refusal to grant a patent for technology it deemed was software. UK patent law says that a computer program cannot be patented. Sony appealed, and the Office's Deputy Director R C Kennell has just ruled on that appeal.

He said much of the original application was indeed a software program and could not be patented. He picked out some elements of the patent application, though, and said they were not simply a computer program and might be eligible for a patent.

Sony had applied for a patent for a data structure which dealt with metadata attached to video files. Metadata, which attaches to digital artefacts such as a song or picture and describes them, would contain information about each video shot and could be useful in editing, archiving and searching through video material.

The application was for a data structure, but the company was told that a data structure was basically a computer program. Since that ruling the approach to interpreting the law has changed in the light of the Aerotel and Macrossan Patent Office rulings.

Sony appealed, and the Patent Office has said that the application fails under both the old and the new approach. The office did say, though, that there were elements of the application that could be eligible for a patent.

Something can be patented if it has a "technical effect". Though the data structure itself was ruled out, Kennell said if it were incorporated into a network the new network might be patentable.

"It seems to me that claims according to either of the auxiliary requests, which require the incorporation of the data structure into a data communications network, would satisfy all the Aerotel/Macrossan steps," he said.

"The incorporation of a hierarchical database structure into a communications network of data processing devices so that metadata can be communicated between them provides in my view a contribution which is not disclosed or foreshadowed by the prior art cited on this application, which is not solely a computer program, and which is technical in nature."

Sony said the system would be particularly useful for the capture and editing of high definition images. The images themselves are large and can be hard to manage, so metadata could become a proxy for a shot, meaning that only the shots that were needed would have to be actually processed.

"This decision reaffirms the law that software cannot be patented, that a data structure is essentially software, but just because an invention contains data structures does not mean it cannot be patented," said John MacKenzie, an intellectual property partner at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW. "The "invention" needs to be considered, but a patent will not be granted for the data structure 'as such'."

Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

More from The Register

next story
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
UK Parliament rubber-stamps EMERGENCY data grab 'n' keep bill
Just 49 MPs oppose Drip's rushed timetable
MPs wave through Blighty's 'EMERGENCY' surveillance laws
Only 49 politcos voted against DRIP bill
EU's top data cops to meet Google, Microsoft et al over 'right to be forgotten'
Plan to hammer out 'coherent' guidelines. Good luck chaps!
US judge: YES, cops or feds so can slurp an ENTIRE Gmail account
Crooks don't have folders labelled 'drug records', opines NY beak
Delaware pair nabbed for getting saucy atop Mexican eatery
Burrito meets soft taco in alleged rooftop romp outrage
LightSquared backer sues FCC over spectrum shindy
Why, we might as well have been buying AIR
'Two-speed internet' storm turns FCC.gov into zero-speed website
Deadline for comments on net neutrality shake-up extended to Friday
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.