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UK court offers hope to software patent applicants

Emma Barraclough, London

The UK Intellectual Property Office could be forced to revise a practice note it issued in November 2006 after the Patents Court last week ruled that it cannot automatically ban the patenting of all computer programs

In the judgment issued on Friday, in an appeal brought to the Patents Court by four companies against a decision of the UK IP Office, Mr Justice Kitchin said that the Office was wrong to reject all patent claims to computer program products.

“I have reached the conclusion that claims to computer programs are not necessarily excluded by Article 52 [of the European Patent Convention],” he wrote.

He continued: “In a case where claims to a method performed by running a suitably programmed computer or to a computer programmed to carry out the method are allowable then, in principle, a claim to the program itself should also be allowable. I say “in principle” because the claim must be drawn to reflect the features of the invention which would ensure the patentability of the method which the program is intended to carry out when it is run.”...

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