LingNoi writes "A recent press release by UK Intellectual Property Office mentions that it will be undertaking a study after Symbian won an appeal in the high court on its patent application.
Symbian argued that the way it loads dll libraries into memory is not completely software related and the judges (with their many years of computer programming experience) agreed.
Symbian's patent application describes how a library of functions (DLL), which can be called on by multiple application programs running on a computer, is accessed. In particular, it provides a way of indexing these library functions to ensure the computer will continue to operate reliably after changes are made to the library. The Court of Appeal has held that this invention is not solely a computer program because as a matter of practical reality there is more than just a better program, there is a faster and more reliable computer.
It seems that the UK patent office is not going to try an appeal the decision, instead they will wait to see the decision of the European Patent Office (EPO) with regards to software patents from Europe.
In the light of this development, the UK-IPO will not seek to appeal the Symbian judgment further. The UK-IPO agrees with the Court of Appeal in that it would now be premature to seek a view from the House of Lords when European practice is likely to be settled shortly by a decision of the EPO's Enlarged Board of Appeal. The UK-IPO will have an opportunity to submit observations to the Enlarged Board of Appeal on the questions put to it. In order to inform any such observations the UK-IPO will undertake a study to determine the economic impact of patenting computer programs.
There are dark times ahead for the UK software industry, if the decision from the EPO is that software is patentable then the UK IPO would most likely follow. However don't worry yet, it seems little has changed as the UK IPO will continue business as usual, apart from a small loop hole.
Although the Court of Appeal did not accept the UK-IPO's view on the patentability of Symbian's invention, the UK-IPO believes that the Court has confirmed that the so called "Aerotel/Macrossan" test, established by the Court of Appeal in a previous case External Link, provides a legitimate approach to analysing whether an invention should be refused as no more than a computer program. The Court of Appeal declined to follow the EPO approach, considering it unclear at present. Therefore, the UK-IPO will continue to use the Aerotel/Macrossan test but in doing so it will take account of the Court of Appeal's judgment in the Symbian case whenever appropriate.
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