January 28, 2008

A ruling by the UK High Court appears to have paved a way for expanded patent protection in the UK similar to that generally available by the European Patent Office (“EPO”). In November, 2006, the UK Intellectual Property Office (“UK IPO”) issued a “practice note” to state that computer programs alone generally did not constitute patentable subject matter. According to the Financial Times (UK, link below), the decision by the UK High Court noted that the UK IPO was “incorrectly applying the law in automatically rejecting claims for computer programs,” noting that the EPO allows applicants to patent computer programs “if they can demonstrate some sort of innovative technical effect.” The new standard appears to be whether or not the computer program makes a substantive inventive contribution, notwithstanding the format in which the program is distributed (computer disc, internet download, etc.). According to the IP Kat Blog (article link below), Judge Kitchin of the High Court recognized that it was “highly undesirable to have provisions of the [European Patent Convention] construed differently at the EPO as compared with the courts in the different contracting states,” further noting that “decisions of the Boards of Appeal should be highly persuasive.” Formal guidance has not yet been issued by the UK IPO on this matter.

Financial Times (UK) News Article: LINK
IP Kat Blog Article: LINK


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Mark Reichel
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I am a patent attorney with Reichel IP LLC, where I concentrate my practice on patent drafting and prosecution, trademarks, and general intellectual property matters. I currently focus on the preparation and prosecution of medical device and other life sciences patent applications, and being actively involved in a number of local not-for-profit organizations.

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