Patent considerations for software programmers occupy something of a unique place within the hallowed halls of the be-suited bureaucrats who pad the halls of the European Patent Office.
Really? Yes honest – it’s quite cool actually. Patents aren’t just stuffy old pages of diagrams for new inventions to replace the household toaster, they form a vital part of governing the Intellectual Property of that “next big idea” that your hobbyist programmer side is always threatening to pump out.
I wrote up a story some time back about this developer who had put together a system that operated “just like” the Easyjet booking system (or something like that I can’t quite remember) and he’d got it passed through as a new product even though it behaved in the same way as the system he had clearly used as his design template.
The judges ruled that just because the GUI looked (let’s say ‘tasted’ even to illustrate this) the same, he had essentially constructed something from scratch to produce the same end result. The judge extended the taste analogy, when he said that just because two chefs both publish a recipe for chicken soup, a similar end result can be arrived at by two different routes.
So anyway, let’s get current - Simon Davies, a patent attorney who’s also a spokesman for the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA) has described March’s High Court decision on Symbian’s patent application as, “Further pressure for alignment between the UK and Europe when it comes to computer-implemented patents.”
The High Court judgment related to a patent application by Symbian. According to the UK-IPO (formerly the Patent Office), Symbian's patent application describes how in a computer a library of functions, which can be called on by multiple application programs running on the computer, is accessed. In particular, it provides a way of indexing these library functions to ensure the computer will continue to operate reliably after changes are made to the library.
Perchance, patents for programmers are a pertinent subject – n’est-ce pas?