Software Patents and the Digital Environment

Philip Leith

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)


Software is patentable in Europe so long as there is sufficient ‘technical contribution’ under the decades-long interpretation of the European Patent Convention made by the Boards of Appeal of the European Patent Office. Despite the failure of the proposed Directive on Computer Implemented Inventions, opponents of software patents have failed to have any affect upon this technical contrivance. Yet, while national courts find the Boards of Appeal decisions persuasive, ‘technical contribution’ remains a difficult test for these various courts to apply. In this article I outline that the test is difficult to utilise in national litigation (it is an engineering approach, rather than a legal one) and suggest that as the Boards of Appeal become less important (and thus less persuasive) should the proposed Unified Patent Court come to fruition, the ‘technical contribution’ test is unlikely to last. This may again make the whole issue of what/whether/how software should be patentable open to debate, hopefully in a less aggressive environment than has existed to date.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationResearch Handbook on EU Internet Law
EditorsAndrej Savin, Jan Trzaskowski
Place of PublicationUK
PublisherEdward Elgar
ISBN (Electronic)978 1 78254 417 3
ISBN (Print)978 1 78254 416 6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014

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