[Fsfe-ie] UK Patent Office workshops on software patents

Teresa Hackett teresahackett at eircom.net
Sat Feb 5 23:42:34 CET 2005

Register by 18.2.2005


Belfast Monday 4 April 2005
Bolton Thursday 17 March 2005
Bristol Friday 18 March 2005
Cardiff Friday 8 April 2005
Coventry Tuesday 15 March 2005
Glasgow Tuesday 5 April 2005
London Thursday 7 April 2005


Patent Office wants debate on software directive 
Ingrid Marson
February 04, 2005, 12:55 GMT

The UK Patent Office (UKPO) announced on Friday that it will hold a
series of public workshops across the UK to discuss the proposed
software patent directive.    
The workshops will examine the definition of a 'technical
contribution' when deciding whether a particular software patent
should be granted. This is a key part of the Computer Implemented
Inventions Directive (CIID), which says that software can be
patented if it can be shown to make a technical contribution. 

The future of this directive is uncertain, after the European
Parliament asked on Wednesday for a full rewrite. The UK has been
very supportive of the directive, unlike fellow EU members such as
Poland. These public workshops could influence the UK's future
patent policy, according to a UKPO spokesman. 

"It depends on the outcome of the workshops -- if, for example,
they show that there is some consensus it will become extremely
persuasive to make changes [to the policy]," said the spokesman.
"But, it is too early to make promises that there will be an
entirely new direction -- we need to wait and see what the
workshops produce." 

Peter Hayward, a divisional director at the UKPO, said the Patent
Office accepts that the software industry is divided on the CIID.
UKPO hopes that this meeting will help it to come up with a
definition that keeps both sides happy. 

"Opposing views on the directive have been expressed by different
sectors of the software industry, and not just along the
traditional division between the large and small firms," said
Hayward. "We will be very interested to see if a definition which
is clear to software developers can be found which continues to
enable the patent system to protect technical inventions." 

Science and Innovation minister Lord Sainsbury agreed that more
discussion was needed around the issue of technical contribution,
at the end of a meeting held at the Department of Trade and
Industry in December 2004. Unlike the meeting in December, to which
some anti-patent campaigners were not invited, any software
developer or patent professional can attend these workshops,
according to the UKPO. 

The issue of technical contribution is a tricky one. The current
definition within the CIID has been criticised as vague, and
opponents of the directive say that it will allow companies to
patent the majority of software. Last October, various German
politicians proposed a change to the definition so that software
can only be patented if it results in a physical change and cannot
be patented if it is merely a business process, algorithm or data
processing activity. 

To attend the workshops you must register on the UKPO site by 18
February. Workshops will be held during March and April in
Coventry, Bolton, Bristol, Belfast, Glasgow, London and Cardiff.

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