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Archived updates for Thursday, December 16, 2004

UK Innovation Minister Addresses Software Directive Critics

The U.K. Minister for Science & Innovation outlined his government's position on the EU Software Directive on Tuesday. "The current draft Directive will ensure that Europe continues to strikes the right balance and provides clarity as to what can and cannot be patented with regard to computer-implemented inventions, Lord Sainsbury said at a meeting with critics of the proposed directive. "It does not change anything, but maintains the status quo."

"The intention is to maintain high criteria for those seeking patent protection, and to prevent any drift in patent standards towards the current US position," added Peter Hayward of the U.K. Patent Office.

However, according to a report from ZDNet UK on December 14, 2004, "The laughs from the audience of experienced software developers in the DTI Conference Centre on Tuesday, as representatives of the UK Patent Office tried to in vain to [define the "technical effect" requirement for software patentability], appeared to convince Lord Sainsbury that more work needs to be done here."

Up to 20% of U.K. patent applications are for inventions which use software. Mere computer program listings, like lines of code, are protected by copyright but excluded from patent protection in the UK and Europe. However inventions in which software makes a technical contribution, like a mobile telephone or car engine management systems, have always been and will continue to be patentable.

The Directive is expected to return to the European Parliament for a second reading early next year.The U.K. Patent Office maintains a comprehensive information resource on the Directive.
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