by George Nott

IP Australia boosts training following messy software patent case

Jul 13, 2016
GovernmentGovernment ITInnovation

IP Australia has given examiners extra training and updated its examination manual following a court case over a software patent.

In December last year the Australian Full Federal Court ruled that an invention by RPL Central for an online tool for ‘collecting evidence of skills and knowledge to meet a recognised qualification standard’ was not patentable.

“Where the claimed invention is to a computerised business method, the invention must lie in that computerisation,” Justices Bennett, Kenny and Nicholas noted. “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.”

The decision overturned a primary judge’s initial ruling that held the invention was patentable subject matter.

IP Australia said in a statement yesterday that it had conducted additional training with its patent examiners in order to provide ‘a more consistent understanding of the law and how it should be applied’.

This training included those examiners who were directly responsible for applications related to computer software and business methods.

“We will continue to monitor examination consistency through our quality review system to ensure our guidance and training of examiners is effective,” it added.

Following the outcome of the case IP Australia reiterated its position that “something can only be patented if it is a Manner of Manufacture”.

“From the RPL decision and other cases, financial, business or other schemes, abstract ideas and mere information, as such, are excluded,” it said in a statement. “Furthermore the implementation of a scheme or presentation of information using a computer or the internet may also not be patentable, whether claimed as a method, a software product or app or a system.”

During the case (Commissioner of Patents v RPL Central Pty Ltd [2015]) the court made clear that that laws that now apply relating to software patents in Australia are similar to those which exists in the UK, specifically the requirement for an invention to provide a technical contribution.