European Patent Office rules on software

By Andrew Charlesworth
13 May 2010 View Comments
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The EPO believes only programs that provide a technical solution to a technical problem can be patented

The European Patent Office (EPO) has ended speculation about the extent to which software can be patented under the European Patent Convention with a decision handed down yesterday from its Enlarged Board of Appeal.

The ruling reinforces the most recent decisions of the EPO that software can be granted a patent only on the grounds of its technical merit.

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“To be granted a patent, a program must provide a technical solution to a technical problem,” Mark Kenrick, partner at intellectual property firm Marks & Clerk LLP, told Computing. “That means a business method cannot be patented, but a clever way of implementing a business method on a computer can.”

The decision “provides certainty” for software developers and makes it more likely that the UK courts, which have pointed up inconsistencies in the EPO's historical decisions, will follow the line of the EPO, added Kenrick.

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