Magazine for Senior Financial Executives: The End of Innocence—Maybe – European Patent Office expend to expand computer software patent protection

The End of Innocence—Maybe – European Patent Office expend to expand computer software patent protection – Brief Article

Tom Gill

This November, the European Patent Office (EPO)–which issues patents on behalf of the European Union states plus four other countries–will vote to expand protection to include software. The European Commission, the EU’s executive body, is readying a similar proposal.

Executives in Europe say it’s about time. U.K. bank Halifax recently submitted its Web-based method of calculating interest rates to the U.K. patent office. Shonag MacPherson of Glasgow law firm Mcgrigors says the technique’s at the core of an online service the bank provides. MacPherson says the bank’s management is keen to gain the patent. “It will allow Halifax to maximize the ROI in the technology it developed,” she says.

Currently, the EPO rulebook explicitly excludes software from patent protection–unless it has a specific effect on machinery. But Europe’s patent office has all but ignored this exclusion, granting more than 20,000 exemptions.

Mory Motabar, CFO at Seagull, a Netherlands-based software company, welcomes the EPO’s new stance. He says Seagull has applied for a number of patents for its proprietary software–but has repeatedly been turned down. The company has since stopped trying. Motabar says he doesn’t believe Seagull has lost any business to competitors as a result. “But,” he adds, “the risk is there.”

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