Hargreaves Report: Patently Sensible Stuff
Although that suggests the main focus of the report is on copyright, one of the most important recommendations of the report concerns software patents:
In Europe, in contrast to Japan and the US, there are restrictions laid down by the EPC on how far computer programs may be patented. Programs considered to make a “technical contribution” - such as controlling a robot, or making the internal operation of a computer more efficient - can be patented; general application programs - such as word processing software - cannot.
However, applications for patents on computer programs face differing interpretations of precisely where this boundary line lies on the part of the EPO and the UK IPO. The EPO, having started from a position similar to the UK, has in recent years become more open to awarding such patents than theIPO. Submissions to the Call for Evidence differed on the question of whether computer programs should be afforded patent protection, but many appealed for consistency between the IPO and theEPO.
This presents a dilemma for an evidence-based patent policy; the evidence points to significant benefits arising from European harmonisation (as discussed in Chapter 3), but also to the UK’s current position of denying or at least severely restricting patents to non-technical computer programs. In this case, the Review believes the balance of evidence lies in continuing to withhold patent recognition of non-technical computer programs as part of a sustained effort to deal with the growing and dangerous problem of thickets. The UK should seek to convince its European partners of the force of this case.