The Court of Appeal has handed down a potentially far-reaching judgment concerning whether computer programs can...
The Court has ruled that Symbian can patent a program which enables computers to run faster and more efficiently.
In what has been a fiercely debated topic within the software industry, the ruling may allow many more computer programs to be patented.
The rules governing what can be patented say that a computer program "as such" is excluded. It has been accepted, however, that a wider invention which happens to involve a computer program can be protected, for example using a programmed computer to make a production line work better.
With the Symbian invention, the question was whether a program which made the computer itself work better could be patented.
Lord Neuberger, giving the judgment of the court, agreed with Symbian that this was the sort of invention that could be protected.
He noted that to do otherwise would be inconsistent with what the UK courts had previously decided. He also noted the importance of the UK Intellectual Property Office seeking, where it could, to be consistent with the European Patent Office (EPO).
The EPO had already decided to grant a patent for the invention in question. Myles Jelf of law firm Bristows said, "This decision makes a lot of sense from a legal viewpoint, as the contrary view could effectively have shut out all patent protection for anything that takes place within a computer.
"It will, however, cause reverberations throughout the software industry as, following it, more patents will surely be granted which cover software applications and packages."