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
Ansalone, Alexander Anthony MR
|Mobile (smartphone and/or tablet apps)||
Darling, Liam MR
Western Digital Technologies, Inc
|Server and client systems||
Hargreaves, Carol Anne DR
Accenture Global Solutions Limited
Lutze, An drew John MR
Accenture Global Services Limited