Patents for software

Many established industries are being modernised by the introduction of cloud-based management, crowdsourced services, or networking systems to deliver existing products or services more efficiently or by altogether new software as a service (SaAS) products. Continuous innovation also occurs in the development of new software applications for smartphones and tablets, as well as in the server processes that often drive their functionality. Software patents constitute a large proportion of the patent applications filed in Australia and around the world.

Is software patentable?

Software patent applications that define a new method or process for solving a particular real-world problem in a way that would not be obvious to a developer familiar with the industry is likely to be patentable in Australia. On the other hand, software which simply automates a task that could be performed by hand (however inefficiently) is unlikely to be patentable. That is, if you remove the elements of a computer device from the claim, and all that is left is a known method, then the use of the computer or software will not be sufficient to make the claim patentable.

If you are unsure whether your software can be patented, you should consult an Australian patent attorney. Where a software process provides a new, non-obvious and useful method for performing a given task, software patent applications are still patentable subject matter in many jurisdictions, provided that the software patent application is tailored to the specific requirements of the jurisdiction where patent protection is being sought.

Benefits and challenges of patenting software

Software patents can be highly effective at stopping or delaying competition. They also give companies a clear competitive edge in raising capital. Patentability of software requires that it is significantly more than an abstract concept; patentable software has to feature an innovation that should not be obvious to developers familiar with the technical field of the software. Abstract ideas, such as mathematical functions and algorithms, are not patentable, but an inventor can patent a system that utilises the algorithm to produce a novel industrial result.

Sometimes, eligibility issues in filing a software patent application can be readily overcome by using the correct language in the claims of the patent application. Thus, your software patent should be prepared by a patent attorney who is knowledgeable about software patents and meticulous in preparing the details of your application.

Examples of granted software, mobile apps and computer patent applications

AU Patent # 2019100218
A real-time shopping cart and personal checkout. A software application where the user is able to use a device such as a mobile phone or tablet, to scan an items barcode or identifier in a physical store i.e. Woolworths then pay for the item via the application and proceed to exit the store without the aid of a person or a self serve checkout

Ansalone, Alexander Anthony MR

Mobile (smartphone and/or tablet apps)
AU Patent # 2018101851
A system and a method that allows a user to receive messages from a paging transmission network in native paging protocol format through their smartphone and smart tablet

Darling, Liam MR

AU Patent # 2015203825
Multiple ECC codeword sizes in an SSD

Western Digital Technologies, Inc

Server and client systems
AU Patent # 2017202518
A method for registering devices, in particular conditional access devices or payment or vending machines, on a server of a system which comprises a number of such devices

Skidata AG

Cloudbased systems
AU Patent # 2018229432
Data modelling and flow engine for building automated flows within a cloud based developmental platform

ServiceNow, Inc

Artificial Intelligence
AU Patent # 2018102066
An Automated Investment Robo-Advisor System using Artificial Intelligence

Hargreaves, Carol Anne DR

AU Patent # 2017264998
Cognitive Robotics Analyzer

Accenture Global Solutions Limited

Crowdsourced services
US Patent # 15659764
(EN) Crowdsourced voting via interaction between crowdsource client and crowdsourced client interface

Intel Corporation

AU Patent # 2017100314
Equipping a Managed Service Provider, providing a Software as a Service, Solution set as Subscription(s), selling licences and marketing IT software and hardware, targeting individual, private, corporate and government. Linking multiple SaaS products to become SaaS-SSaS (Software as a Service, Solution Set as Subscription)

Lutze, An drew John MR

Object recognition
AU Patent # 2016225841
Predicting accuracy of object recognition in a stitched image

Accenture Global Services Limited

Social media
AU Patent # 2013205553
Providing feedback via a social network from a media distribution platform

Apple, Inc