[Fsfe-ie] Technology

Bob Jolliffe bobjolliffe at gmail.com
Thu Aug 20 11:43:17 CEST 2009

At Tuesday evening's meeting in the pub we had a brief discussion on whether
it was "correct" or useful to refer to computer software as technology.  I
mentioned a 2005 UK High Court judgement, the CFPH Case, which many of you
might be familiar with, where the question of what is and what isn't
technology is raised.  The judgement can be found here

I think what is interesting is that Judge Prescott (rightly IMHO) points out
that (i) our understanding of 'technical' and 'technology' is quite fuzzy at
the edges,  and (ii) that these same fuzzy understandings have become the
cornerstone for how the EPO decide cases, looking for 'technical'
contribution etc.  His overall findings, especially the infamous little man
test, were overturned by later judges, but this brief little discussion on
technology remains interesting.

Just took a quick look at the Irish Patent Act (
and sure enough there is no mention of technology or technical.  TRIPS on
the other hand is quite explicit (
"1. Subject to the provisions of paragraphs 2 and 3, patents shall be
available for any inventions, whether products or processes, in all fields
of technology, provided that they are new, involve an inventive step and are
capable of industrial application."

So could it be that this word has just sort of crept up and overtook us?
Lookiing at the TRIPS wording it is really quite critical what is and what
isn't a field of technology.

My own view is that there is a sense in which computer software can be
usefully viewed as technology but we should use it cautiously.  In much the
same way as it can be useful to refer to graphics engines and message
pumps.  In these cases it is metaphor - not actual machines and pumps.  And
there are so many other aspects of computer programs which are not
necessarily technological.  One thing which is reasonably certain is that
technology is required for a computer program to execute.  The rest is open
to interpretation.

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