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UK High Court Allows Software Patent Claims 125

Posted by kdawson
from the there-goes-the-industry dept.
An anonymous reader tips us to a note up on the IPKat blog, written by one of the four law-professor types behind that venture. The British High Court has ruled on appeal that the UK Patent Office must not reject software patent applications out of hand, as it has been doing for some time now. "In a surprising (to this Kat at least) turn of events, the Honourable Mr Justice Kitchin has ruled today that the current UK Patent Office practice of flatly rejecting patent claims to computer program products is wrong... Kitchin J found that the appeals should be allowed. Each application concerned a computer related invention where the examiner had allowed claims to, in effect, a method performed by running a suitably programmed computer and to a computer programmed to carry out the method... The cases were remitted to the [UK Intellectual Property Office] for further consideration in light of the judgment."
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UK High Court Allows Software Patent Claims

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  • The patents.. (Score:4, Informative)

    by LingNoi (1066278) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @10:23PM (#22197524)
    Patent 1: Software 2000 has developed a method of generating bit masks for use with laser printers which results in higher quality images. It is implemented by programming a conventional computer, printer or copier to process images in a particular way. Software 2000 exploits its invention by selling the program to its commerical partners who then incorporate it in their printers and printer drivers and distribute it to the end users in the form of printers, computer discs and web downloads. The end users are located worldwide.

    Patent 2: Astron Clinica was founded to commercialise skin imaging techniques developed at the University of Birmingham which enable images of the skin to be processed to identify the distribution and concentration of underlying skin chromophores. The invention described in its application provides a system and process for generating realistic images representing the results of planned cosmetic or surgical interventions which change the actual or apparent distribution of these chromophores. The invention is implemented by programming a computer to process images in a particular way. It is commercialised here and abroad by selling a disc which causes a computer to be configured so as to undertake the required processing.

    Patent 3: Inrotis is a spin-off company established by the University of Newcastle upon Tyne to commercialise drug discovery and network analysis techniques. Broadly speaking, the inventions the subject of its two applications in issue concern methods of identifying groups of target protein interactions. The commerical product which Inrotis sells is a computer disc which causes a computer to be configured so as to carry out the necessary processing.

    Patent 4: SurfKitchen is a mobile services company and has made an invention which improves the ability of mobile telephones to access services on the internet. It is implemented by pre-storing a program on a mobile telephone memory or by downloading the program from the internet. In either case the program is usually made available by one of SurfKitchen's commerical partners to whom it makes the program available on a computer disc.

    Patent 5: Cyan Technology is a semi-conductor company which designs and builds micro-controllers. It has invented a method of generating data for configuring micro-controllers which greatly simplifies chip design and programming. The commerical products that implement the invention are computer discs and Internet downloads worldwide.
  • by ContractualObligatio (850987) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @10:46PM (#22197626)

    Before too many hysterical reactions kick in, bear in mind the actual rules have not changed here, and software patents as such are still disallowed in Europe. If you follow the link in TFA you'll get the current definitions (emphasis added):

    "(1) European patents shall be granted for any inventions which are susceptible of industrial applications, which are new and which involve an inventive step.

    (2) The following in particular shall not be regarded as inventions within the meaning of paragraph 1:
    a. discoveries, scientific theories and mathematical methods;
    b. aesthetic creations;
    c. schemes, rules and methods for performing mental acts, playing games or doing business, and programs for computers;
    d. presentations of information."

    In that context, the test is then to decide whether claims such as the following are industrial applications which involve an inventive step, or purely programs for computers. I don't think they're all equal. The SurfKitchen sounds like a computer program to me, while I have some sympathy for the thought of Astron Clinica having invented a new overall way of carrying out surgery and wanting to patent the method, including the part that is carried out on a computer: it is not obvious, nor a business process, or something as basically stupid as the whole "One Click" thing. Also, note that these are mostly not software companies. You might still disagree with judge's conclusion and have further points to make, but please no more mindless nonsense about the imminent death of the UK software industry and a shift to the American system.

    1. Software 2000: a method of generating bit masks for use with laser printers which results in higher quality images.

    2. Astron Clinica: a system and process for generating realistic images representing the results of planned cosmetic or surgical interventions which change the actual or apparent distribution of underlying skin chomophores.

    3. Inrotis: methods of identifying groups of target proteins for drug theray by processing proteome data defining proteins and protein interactions.

    4. SurfKitchen: an invention to improve the ability of mobile telephones to access services on the Internet by pre-storing a program on a mobile telephone memory or by downloading the program from the Internet.

    5. Cyan Technology: a method of generating data for configuring micro-prodcts which greatly simplifies chip design and programming.

  • by remahl (698283) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @12:01AM (#22197916)
    No. The UK joined the EU in the 1970's and is as full a member as any other. Maybe you're confusing it with the fact that they have not adopted the Euro currency.
  • by melink14 (1160527) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @12:14AM (#22197988)
    I was thinking I might eat my hat on that one, but I think the euro thing happened around the time I started becoming cognizant of world affairs, and I tend to conflate the EU and its currency. I'll have to be more careful in the future.
  • Re:Welcome (Score:5, Informative)

    by albalbo (33890) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @04:36AM (#22198868) Homepage
    It's not really that bad.

    It brings the UK back in line with the rest of Europe; for a while, we were the only place disallowing any form of software patent. We're now back to "software patents if you can show a technical effect", which is enough to block most stuff which gets patented in the US/Japan.

    The software patent battle was never properly won in Europe. It was prevented from being made much worse, but we still have software patents of limited sorts.
  • Re:Welcome (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 27, 2008 @10:26AM (#22199942)
    "Software patents" or "you've lost the right to be smart" in Europe is illegal. They are huge efforts to make it appear the opposite way and to give such abomination credibility. But it's bare illegal whatever any fooled or corrupted judge will say. But, in some countries, it's quite the opposite:they have stupid laws voted by fooled or corrupted politicians, and only judges can trick the law to make the stupid parts harmless.
    Now, most of open source dev is taking place in Europe... I wonder why it's not US anymore... submarine "open source" devs genocide?

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