Dublin firm dispels European patent myth

12 Mar 2008

Trademark and patent attorneys Cruickshank have told executives from Yahoo!, Microsoft, MIT, Berkeley and Stanford that contrary to popular belief, software is patentable in Europe.

The assertion was made by Michael O’Connor, patent attorney at Cruickshank, as he addressed delegates at the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) annual meeting in San Diego.

O’Connor is a leading expert on European software patents and explained to his audience, which comprised 250 technology transfer and intellectual property experts from a range of companies and universities including Yahoo!, Microsoft, MIT, UC Berkeley and Stanford, why software patent applications fail in Europe, and what needs to be done to resolve these problems.

The AUTM represents technology transfer and innovation experts in over 350 universities, research institutions, teaching hospitals and government agencies, as well as hundreds of companies involved with managing and licensing innovations.

The European Patent Office currently grants approximately 56pc of all patents applied for. However, the grant rate drops to just 20pc for software patent applications. Requirements for European software patents are much more stringent than those in the US.

“It’s a myth that software is not patentable in Europe. In fact, the European Patent Office (EPO) issues software patents regularly.

“Confusion arises because of differences in the European requirements for software patent applications compared to those in the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

“Inventors and companies applying for patents on software and business methods need to ensure their application for a patent meets the very detailed European requirements or they are virtually guaranteed to fail.

“It’s important for anyone wishing to patent software to ensure they involve a European patent attorney at an early stage.”

Cruickshank representatives will be meeting with a range of US technology and software companies over the coming months as part of a drive to educate them about European software patents.

By John Kennedy