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Archived updates for Thursday, July 14, 2005

EPO Responds to Defeat of EU Software Patentability Directicve

According to a statement by the President of the EPO, Alain Pompidoua, following lasts week's defeat of the European Directive on Computer-Implemented Inventions, "The European Patent Convention provides the general legal basis for the grant of European patents, whereas the objective of the directive would have been to harmonise the EU member states' rules on CII and the relevant provisions of the EPC. The EPC also governs our work in the field of CII, together with the case law of our judiciary, the Boards of Appeal of the EPO."

The press release issued on July 6, 2005 goes on to emphasize that "As with all inventions, CII are only patentable if they have technical character, are new and involve an inventive technical contribution to the prior art. Moreover, the EPO does not grant "software patents": computer programs claimed as such, algorithms or computer-implemented business methods that make no technical contribution are not considered patentable inventions under the EPC. In this respect, the practice of the EPO differs significantly from that of the United States Patent & Trademark Office."

In other words Dr. Pompidouia, the definition of "technical contribution" excludes business methods. . . .

For more thoughts along these lines, check out "A Technical Critique of Fifty (European) Software Patents," where the authors conclude that
. . . for the set of patents examined here: they are not too obvious in
general; the level of disclosure is often less than optimal, indicating the need
for reform; they are almost all for real innovations; some are too broad
technically but most are not; they do last too long, but this has little to no
apparent impact on the industry; and some software inventions need both patent
and copyright protection. Taken altogether, software patent critics do have some
valid points (especially regarding disclosure), but the accusations that they
are generally obvious, trivial, and impede progress do not stand up to scrutiny.
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