Feeds

Sony's video metadata invention could be patentable in part

Restructure and reapply

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.

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Apple CEO Tim Cook: TV is TERRIBLE and stuck in the 1970s
The iKing thinks telly is far too fiddly and ugly – basically, iTunes
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
Huawei ditches new Windows Phone mobe plans, blames poor sales
Giganto mobe firm slams door shut on Microsoft. OH DEAR
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
Show us your Five-Eyes SECRETS says Privacy International
Refusal to disclose GCHQ canteen menus and prices triggers Euro Human Rights Court action
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.