While there has been so many patents of inventions across the world, non physical item is something new. So let me share with you in brief about the software patents across the world.
The Rise of Software Patents
So think of an invention. The first thing which comes to your mind is the bulb and one name Thomas Edison. From your school days the word invention has got associated with his name. Still, you have seen so many other types of inventions which are not physical. So many non physical inventions are being patented recently. Take for example the chemical and thermal processes. And then came the era where patent applications for something virtual started coming in, the Softwares.
There is exponential growth in numbers of patent filed for softwares in last 3 decades. The most challenging applications which the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) had to consider in its entire history. Because of the variations and the super fast software creations compared to physical items it is difficult to regulate. In addition the regulation is varying across the globe. So if you want to patent your software, you will need to check the regulations for that country.
The United States
It all started with the case Diamond vs. Diehr, in 1981. The ruling of the Supreme Court stated:
A computer process invented to improve the quality of cured rubber could be patented.
Consequently, this became the first software patent granted in the history. Finally a revolution started leading to more and more filing of software patents. Yet the the definition is still not very simple like the physical counterparts. USPTO is having a tough time with software patents. The programming languages are evolving leading to new ones almost every year. Therefore it is becoming easier for you to develop new softwares. So any digital system that is useful and new is an invention.
While USPTO is enforcing the requirements for software inventions regularly. Also the invention has to be different from any prior work and have a clearly defined use. So here are couple of the examples of patents from leading companies.
- Google: Web Searching Algorithm
- Amazon: Frequent Buyer Program
Here is the link to United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) : http://www.uspto.gov/
Europe has an regulatory body for filing of patents called European Patent Office (EPO). Yet there is no clear definition on software patents elliibility. Under the European Patent Convention which created the EPO you have the following words.
A computer program claimed “as such” is not a patentable invention (Article 52(2)(c) and (3) EPC). Patents are not granted merely for program listings. Program listings as such are protected by copyright. For a patent to be granted for a computer-implemented invention, a technical problem has to be solved in a novel and non-obvious manner.
Here is the link to European Patent Office (EPO) : https://www.epo.org/
The United Kingdom
United Kingdom is not part of the EPO, and its patenting rules are very much similar. The regulatory body is working on improving the rules .They are trying to prevent copying of intellectual property like softwares.
Japan is a popular software market and it is easy to file software patents. You will find the rules very clear and easy to follow if you file a software patent. Therefore many companies file a software patent when they face issues elsewhere.
In the last few decades India has become an important player in the software industry. Therefore the Indian Patent Office worked towards supporting software patents. So a decision is made to support software patent with the a criteria. The criteria was that you can patent a software application but not its purpose.
a software application itself and not the purpose of the application can be patented
So as you can see there is no particular rule for software patents across the globe. I will advice your to approach the appropriate regulatory body in a particular country where you want to patent. Also consider visiting a lawyer before taking any decisions.
Don’t forget to share your experience on filing software patents below.