Abstract ideas and pure methods of doing business have for some time been excluded from patentability in the United States.
On 19th June 2014 the United States Supreme Court handed down its Decision in Alice Corp. v CLS Bank International, which involved a method for performing a financial transaction, and has unanimously ruled that abstract ideas and business methods, even when implemented on a computer system, will still not be eligible for patent protection.
As Justice Clarence Thomas said in the Decision, “…merely requiring generic computer implementation fails to transform that abstract idea into a patent-eligible invention.”
The Decision would appear to bring United States practice ever so slightly more into line with what has been settled procedure at the European Patent Office for some time, in particular, that a software invention to qualify for patent protection must have technical character and provide a non-obvious solution to an underlying technical problem – that is, patents are reserved for software which provides a technically innovative effect.
Quite what is considered to be sufficiently technical, and therefore patent eligible in the United States following the Decision, will be something we shall continue to closely monitor.
If you have developed an innovative software application and would like advice on whether it can be protected with a patent, please contact Jonathan White on 01-6763465 or firstname.lastname@example.org.