The Court of Appeal has thrown out a patent application for UKcorporator, an online system for setting up new businesses.
The ruling is expected to have wider implications for software and services firms seeking UK patents.
The court ruled that UKcorporator, designed by Australian lawyer Neal Macrossan, did not qualify for patent protection because it is both a computer program that automates "a mental act" and a method of doing business – areas excluded from patent protection under European law.
The online system has been designed to take users step by step through the process of incorporating a new company, using structured questioning to tailor the necessary documentation and ensuring compliance with company law.
In his ruling, Lord Justice Robin Jacob said, “Mr Macrossan's method is for the very business itself, the business of advising upon and creating appropriate company formation documents. Accordingly we hold that Mr Macrossan's idea is excluded from patentability.”
The ruling upheld a decision by the Patent Office to reject Macrossan’s patent application in March 2005. But the inventor holds patents for similar systems in four other countries.