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UK High Court Allows Software Patent Claims 125

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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  • sad news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by yakumo.unr ( 833476 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @09:52PM (#22197380) Homepage
    This is NOT good news for software innovation in the UK at all.

    Anyone claiming that there hasn't been any innovation in software over the last 10 years because of the lack of ability to patent it in the UK is clearly barking mad.

    Yes, as someone that has worked on generating IP before I strongly believe that people should be paid for their work if they don't wish to donate it for free, but clearly a lack of patents hasn't prevented this either.

    All this will bring eventually is the stifling of the software industry, oh, and more patent trolling, joy.
  • Well ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 26, 2008 @09:52PM (#22197382)
    there goes the U.K. software industry. It's unfortunate that the people we most trust to protect our industry and our livelihoods are the most clueless about the very technology we must have in order to do that. The United States is no better in that regard, that's for damn sure. Too bad ... it looks like we're just going to roll over and leave whatever innovation is left in the software field to the Chinese and the Indians.
  • by lysse ( 516445 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @10:17PM (#22197500)
    The High Court is not the highest court in the land; there's potential (at least, I don't see anything ruling it out) for the UK-IPO to appeal to the lawlords for a definitive ruling on what UK patent law actually is. And then if they decide that the law does not allow for software patents to be discarded without consideration - which would surely be something of a surprise to everyone, given that the stated position of just about every authority is that it does and they should - there is always the chance that Parliament will stomp out the loophole again (because ultimately, the judiciary in this country can't override Parliament; it can only clarify).
  • by EvilGrin666 ( 457869 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @10:18PM (#22197508) Homepage
    I was under the assumption that software patents in the EU were not valid. Thus making any pro software patent verdict by the court in the UK invalid?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 26, 2008 @10:19PM (#22197512)
    ...old people were best suited to make very important decisions. After all, they had the most learning, the most experience, and the most wisdom.

    Now, however, technology moves much faster than the human mind. A person may easily see two or three technological revolutions in his lifetime, each one forcing the rejection of old value systems and the embracing of new perspectives.

    Unfortunately, the older a human mind gets, the less able it is to reject old value systems and embrace new perspectives.

    So now, the decisions of the old-and-powerful wind up causing great harm to the young-and-visionary.

    The thing that REALLY gets me is when young people...people who *should* know into this we-need-control-to-have-innovation crap.

    If I could put smart in the water, I would.
  • Re:Welcome (Score:3, Insightful)

    by smittyoneeach ( 243267 ) * on Saturday January 26, 2008 @10:21PM (#22197518) Homepage Journal
    Better question: who is King George in this equation?
  • Re:Yay! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @10:37PM (#22197592)
    I don't think "backwards" is sufficiently descriptive ... I'd say "corrupt" more closely resembles the situation with regards to Imaginary Property. These laws didn't just happen ... in the U.S., Congress couldn't have cared less about patent and trademark law until they were paid by the private sector to revise it. We the People got sold out, and I'm sorry to say it's happening in the U.K. as well. That's too bad, because this is the very stuff that ends civilizations.
  • by ilikepi314 ( 1217898 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @11:36PM (#22197814)
    I completely agree! However, unfortunately, you're preaching to the choir. The question now is, what do we have to do to convince those that make the law that this is what needs to be done? I've been thinking lately - I wonder if someone could get them (corrupt congressmen) at their own game. For instance, run for office and have a reasonable chance at becoming a senator or representative, and then create a bill with some catchy acronym like "The 2008 DON'T EAT BABIES Act" that gives money to orphans, and just so happens to also change patent law. If anyone comes out against it, gather a list and send a letter to all the major news outlets saying "Senator So-And-So is against the DON'T EAT BABIES Act!" and invite them to ask him why he is against it. That'd get them to vote for it real quick, if they want to stay in office. But nah, I think that sort of behavior would require me to give up certain virtues, which I won't do. Still, nice to dream.
  • Re:Well ... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by webmaster404 ( 1148909 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @11:43PM (#22197844)
    And how much innovation has happened in the last 10 years? Sure processors have gotten faster, internet connections have gone from Dial-Up to cable yet everything else is the same. Look at the latest MS OS, Vista, it hasn't done anything more than 95 did save for use a whole lot more resources and got a decent enough kernel. Look at OS-X, sure it looks new and such but its based on Unix which has been around for a good while now. Most employed programmers don't innovate or change the tech industry they just find better ways to do simple things such as a company-wide backup, more security, ETC. Today it doesn't seem like the next OS is going to change the world, nor does web 2.0 seem like a revolution, technology is basically the same just a bit improved then 10 years ago.
  • Re:sad news (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nguy ( 1207026 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @11:47PM (#22197866)
    Anyone claiming that there hasn't been any innovation in software over the last 10 years because of the lack of ability to patent it in the UK is clearly barking mad.

    Actually, there hasn't been much innovation in software... and US software patents have contributed to that.

    Whether the UK does or does not have software patents has some symbolic significance, but it doesn't matter much in terms of the software business.
  • by westlake ( 615356 ) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @01:09AM (#22198212)
    Now, however, technology moves much faster than the human mind. A person may easily see two or three technological revolutions in his lifetime, each one forcing the rejection of old value systems and the embracing of new perspectives.

    Has any of this has ever been true?

    Alexander Graham Bell was born in 1847 and died in 1922.

    He was born before the transcontinental telegraph and lived to see the beginnings of broadcast radio.

    He was an infant when the wagon trains began moving westward along the Oregon trail and lived to see the steam locaomotive in its twilight and 20,000,000 automobiles on the American road.

    He was a contemprary of John Deere, Erricson, the Roeblings, Edison, George Eastman, Ford, Burpee, Louis Sullivan, Willis Carrier, and a hundred others.

    He was a witness - and often a participant - in technological revolutions that transformed agriculture, manufacturing, engineering, architecture, transportation, communications. transportation, medicine.

    In 1881 he devised a metal detector to probe for the bullet that would kill President Garfield. In 1901 an X-Ray machine might have saved McKinley.

  • Re:sad news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MrSteveSD ( 801820 ) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @01:18AM (#22198250)
    I used to work for a small software company targeting the energy sector and we were frequently in competition with much larger firms. Despite their size, we often beat them and won important contracts. Software patents would be a disaster because in these vertical markets you are bound to be violating some of the patents that the larger companies will have in their arsenals.

    The smaller companies are just going to get blown out of the water. It's also going to massively increase small companies costs because they would have to try to patent everything they are doing. Not because they want to attack other companies, but because larger companies might patent it and try to attack them. Even if a big company was violating your patent, it would be stupid to attack them because you will soon discover you are violating lots of their little patents. Patents just protect big companies from smaller faster companies that might come along with new ideas.

    It's obviously a big threat to open source as well.
  • by BlueParrot ( 965239 ) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @06:57AM (#22199234)
    Salami tactics, thin edge of the wedge, slippery slope, spearhead strategy... etc... Sure, if it stops here it may not be so bad. Problem is that history suggests it won't stop here.
  • by jez9999 ( 618189 ) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @11:16AM (#22200156) Homepage Journal
    From reading the summary, what the judge seems to have said is that maybe it is possible to be inventive purely in software, and that we should treat such claims on a case-by-case basis. This doesn't seem unreasonable to me. I agree that most software patents granted in the US are not good. But I don't agree that a software patent by definition is bad. That would be a pretty much indefensible and, if I can turn your accusation against you, an inflexible position.

    I have to say I disagree with you. I think that it IS possible to be 'inventive purely in software', but because of the nature of software, it SHOULDN'T be patentable. There's a big difference between software and a device, or even a book. One piece of software builds on ideas of other pieces of software; it borrows very heavily from other components, and 'stands on the shoulders of giants' in order to provide its advanced functionality (take a look at what % of the GUI the programmer of a modern Visual Studio Windows app actually programmed).

    I don't think this position is indefensible in the slighest, and I invite you to try and knock it down.

As of next Tuesday, C will be flushed in favor of COBOL. Please update your programs.