Business Method Patents In Australia

After a long delay, the Australian Federal Court (Appeals Division) has finally decided the case of Commissioner of Patents v RPL Central Pty Ltd [2015] FCAFC 177.  This is an appeal from an appeal from a decision by the Commissioner of Patents not to grant a patent to a method and system for computerised collection of information relevant to assessment of a person’s competency for a recognised qualification standard.

The case considered whether this invention was patentable subject matter in Australia.

The Court decided that this invention was not patentable subject matter in Australian.

"A claimed invention must be examined to ascertain whether it is in substance a scheme or plan or whether it can broadly be described as an improvement in computer technology. The basis for the analysis starts with the fact that a business method, or mere scheme, is not, per se, patentable. The fact that it is a scheme or business method does not exclude it from properly being the subject of letters patent, but it must be more than that. There must be more than an abstract idea; it must involve the creation of an artificial state of affairs where the computer is integral to the invention, rather than a mere tool in which the invention is performed. Where the claimed invention is to a computerised business method, the invention must lie in that computerisation. It is not a patentable invention simply to “put” a business method “into” a computer to implement the business method using the computer for its well- known and understood functions.

Is the mere implementation of an abstract idea in a well-known machine sufficient to render patentable subject matter? Is the artificial effect that arises, because information is stored in RAM and there is communication over the Internet or wifi, sufficient? Does any physical effect give rise to a manner of manufacture? Are the mere presence of an artificial effect and economic utility, without more, sufficient to determine manner of manufacture?

... it is apparent that, other than the integers providing that the computer processes the criteria to generate corresponding questions and presents those questions to the user, the method does not include any steps that are outside the normal use of a computer. It is not suggested that the creation of the plurality of assessable criteria themselves form the basis of the claimed invention. They are present on the NTIS website from which they are retrieved. It is not suggested that the presentation of the questions or the processing of the user’s responses involve ingenuity themselves or that this constitutes the requisite manner of manufacture. 

We conclude that the claimed invention is to a scheme or a business method that is not properly the subject of letters patent."

See also IP Whiteboard

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