Software patents, computer-implemented inventions

An actual property right software patent does not exist. A software patent is understood to be a “normal patent” which protects a method which can be executed on a computer. We also talk of patents for computer-implemented inventions.

The subject of software patents is a speciality of our office since this is a relatively young area in which both the jurisdiction and also the political development and legislation are in a state of flux and have been continuously modified.

Both in German and in European Patent law it is stipulated that programs for data processing systems as such are not considered as inventions in the patent law sense.

As a result of this formulation, it is initially difficult to believe that patent protection for software is possible at all. In view of the possibilities for patenting software which had already existed for some time in the USA and Japan, the economic necessity also arose in Europe to allow software patenting in many areas, especially as most of the technical development today is taking place in the software area. It also cannot be seen why, for example, the improvement in a washing programme of a washing machine, which was previously implemented as an additional adjustment knob with an electronic circuit and today is implemented as additional software, should be protectable on one occasion and not on another occasion.

Consequently the patent offices have interpreted the aforesaid legal exclusion condition increasingly more narrowly in their jurisdiction, and a number of patent applications claiming computer-implemented inventions have already been granted.

We have already given lectures on the subject of software development. You can retrieve the slides for this lecture here.

We shall be pleased to advise you on this matter in our offices in Bremen, Hanover and Oldenburg. We can also visit your company or discuss your problem by telephone or e-mail.