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Opinions divided over patents for software and business methods

Added: (Thu Nov 30 2000)

Pressbox (Press Release) - Opinions divided over patents for software and business methods

Time is running out for the ICT and Financial Services industries in the UK to tell the Patent Office their opinions on the patenting of software and business methods.

Both industries only have until 15 December to comment on whether software and business patenting will stimulate or stifle innovation in the special consultation process which the Office is running.

In one month the Patent Office web site *1 for the consultation process has received over 8000 hits, with over 250 postings to the newsgroup, and over 150 direct responses from those either for or against patents for software or business methods.

The question of software patenting is currently being discussed in the European Commission, and their consultation exercise * 2 sets out the economic arguments and considers the possible impact on businesses throughout the EU.

However, the UK Patent Office consultation is broader than the Commissionís because the Office is also looking into the issue of patents for business methods. In the US, companies, often in the financial services sector, can for example patent methods for trading stocks & shares and other processes.

The Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation called a meeting on Monday 27 November in London to discuss the consequences for UK financial institutions. The meeting was attended by guests such as the British Bankerís Association, the Financial Services Authority, International Securities Market Association, London International Financial Futures & Options Exchange, London Investment Banking Association, CBI and DTI. The arguments both for and against were debated hotly with opinions evenly divided.

Though the Patent Office has been debating patents for software since 1994, the current debate has gained momentum as a result of changes to US patent law in 1998 when both software and business methods, such as marketing strategies, became patentable there.

Next year a Diplomatic Conference of the 20 members of the European Patent Convention (EU plus Monaco, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Cyprus and Turkey) will discuss whether or not to broaden patent law to allow all forms of software to be patentable, and the current consultation exercises will provide substance for that debate.

*1 http://www.patent.gov.uk/snews/notices/softcons.html
*2 http://europa.eu.int/comm/internal_market/en/intprop/indprop/softpaten.htm


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For further information please contact:
Deborah Fields or Peter Colegate at Prowse & Co, 01372 363386 or
Jeremy Philpott at The Patent Office, 01633 814981

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