European Patent Office scotches appeal for review

EPO declines a request from the UK Court of Appeal to clarify European software patent law

The European Patent Office has declined a request from the UK Court of Appeal to clarify European software patent law.

Court of Appeal judge Lord Justice Jacob asked the European Patent Office (EPO) to review the rules on software patents, saying that several EPO rulings contradicted each other.

"The decisions of the EPO Boards of Appeal are mutually contradictory," wrote Jacob, as part of his ruling on a software patent case. "Surely the time has come for matters to be clarified by an enlarged board of appeal".

According to legal website Out-law.com, the president of the EPO, Professor Alain Pompidou, who has the power to order an enlarged board of appeal, has written to Jacob and the UK Patent Office saying that there is an "insufficient legal basis" for a review by the enlarged board of appeal.

The issue revolves around Article 52 of the European Patent Convention, which lists the sorts of inventions that cannot be granted patents. "The following in particular shall not be regarded as inventions," the article states. "Discoveries, scientific theories and mathematical methods; aesthetic creations; schemes, rules and methods for performing mental acts, playing games or doing business, and programs for computers; presentations of information."

Jacob said, in his Macrossan ruling, that the application of these exemptions by the EPO's boards of appeal had been inconsistent.

Some organisations, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, have attempted to overturn patents that they claim are not truly innovative.

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