Paul Cole, Patentability of Computer Software As Such

In Symbian Limited v. Comptroller General of Patents [2008] EWCA Civ 1066, the UK Court of Appeal recently took a broader approach to patentability of software. UK patent attorney and author Paul Cole has written a short article for the Patently-O Patent Law Journal discussing the case and its impact. [Paul Cole Article]. The opinion cites John Duffy’s recent “Death of Google’s Patents” article also published on Patently-O.

13 thoughts on “Paul Cole, Patentability of Computer Software As Such

  1. 12

    Dear Mr. Shannon’s Ghost, as you taught us, information can be defined as any measurable reduction in entropy. In discrete terms it is a “difference” between two vectors, the difference being the information. You’re waaaay over e6k’s head here.

  2. 11

    according to e6k, information is like atoms falling out of wires, or better yet representations of atoms falling out of wires. (I’m guessing e6k is a by-product of public education).

  3. 10

    The standard lament from the PHOSITA, that patents are being handed out for trivial contributions. It’s troubling too, for academics, but who’s going to judge objectively, what is and is not obvious? There’s the stone on which every subjective critic founders. The way the patent law is, all over the world, every Applicant is entitled to a patent on his trivial enabled contribution unless it’s old or obvious, and some jurisdictions struggle to prove something obvious. The Symbian decision here discussed is from the English court, which has the most savage reputation in Europe, when it comes to finding patents invalid (the party attacking validity needs only a preponderance of evidence). However, if memory serves, the decision thus far covers only the “101” point. Obviousness has not yet been adjudicated.

  4. 9

    As a programmer I find this truly disturbing. The “teaching” here is simply that you can take memory structures that have been used for disk directories since the 70’s and use them in a DLL. Unlike a machine where the new use has to be made by adapting a part, in programming exactly the same code can be used. This is like taking a widget that speeds up machine A, sticking it onto the same location on machine B and saying ‘Oh look, it fits.’ It takes a lot more skill in mathematics to say that variable X can be an array in an equation that is usually thought of as taking a scalar than to do what has been done in this patent – and you can’t patent the mathematical insight. It is a shame that such minor insights are getting the full powerful protection of the patent system.

  5. 8

    “‘information’ is the actual thing being represented by the energy/physical object.”

    Claude Shannon is rolling over in his grave.

  6. 7

    Sorry, I forgot to add:

    We’ve been over this. “information” is not the energy/physical object that is representing the information. “information” is the actual thing being represented by the energy/physical object.

  7. 6

    “Solving information engineering problems are solving physical problems because you need space and energy to solve the problem.”

    Solving abstract philosophical problems are solving physical problems because you need space and energy to solve the problem.

  8. 5

    Information is what is being processed. What is so odd is that information is spoken of as abstract and a change in the information as not having transformed anything. But, consider that information takes space and energy to be represented. Solving information engineering problems are solving physical problems because you need space and energy to solve the problem.

    Does “abstract” mean that a college education has no real world result?
    You start with information say pictures. You end with objects identified in the pictures. The information has been transformed. Information takes energy and space. A real world transformation has occurred. If it wasn’t useful why are people spending so much money doing it. Real world–you add a robot that acts on the information.

    Really perplexing this whole view of “real world” and abstraction. I suppose if these “abstraction” people can think it then it isn’t real. I wonder, do they realize the harder you think the more calories you burn.

  9. 4

    Orbit how about “all fields of technology” in TRIPS, and “Technical Boards of Appeal” in the EPO. The 24 x TBA (no Binding Precedent between them) pump out hundreds of Decisions per year. All those Technical Boards are populated by technical (!!!) experts. I think anybody who works at or before the EPO has (after 30 years of jurisprudence) a clear idea what “technical” means. And it will naturally evolve (no Binding Precedent) as all fields of technology evolve. Folks like Aharonian whinge that the EPO jurisprudence is defective because it lacks a definition of “obvious”. Some words are so simple they can’t be reduced further. One of them is “technical”, and another is “obvious”. Leave mainland Europe alone. It’s doing just fine, thank you.

  10. 3

    I don’t see why the UK judges are making a reference to the “technical” character of an invention.

    There is no reference to such “technical” in the UK law or in the EPC.

  11. 2

    A legal source is not cited by the UK Court of Appeal unless it is considered thoroughly reliable and the source has become part of “the establishment”. This recognition of the Patently Obvious blog should not go unmarked. Well done, Dennis!

  12. 1

    Nice article Paul, nice initiative Dennis. Readers, before you get confused, keep in mind that while the UK uses its “101” filter to block any claim directed to a computer program as such, the main EPO filter is its “103” provision, Article 56 EPC.

    For the EPO, anything that has “technical character” (and that’s a lot) gets past 101, but only technical solutions to objective technical problems can get past the EPO’s “103 filter”. Ingenious new business methods performed on a computer will go down in UK on 101 but on 103 in mainland Europe. Mostly, it will come to the same outcome. The EPO is not going to change. How long before the UK falls in line?

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