The Patentability of Computer Programs in Europe: An Improved Interpretation of Articles 52(2) and (3) of the European Patent Convention
After the introduction we discuss the European Patent Convention (EPC) provisions that are relevant to the exculsion from patentability of computer programs and the broader relevance of the fact that the European Patent Office's (EPO's) Enlarged Board of Appeal has recently been requested by the EPO President to interpret these provisions. Next, we comment on the relevance of the recent EPC revision, before addressing what a computer program must be taken to mean for the purposes of the exclusion from patentability. After drawing attention to the conflict in case law that has developed in relation to the patentability of the computer programs and briefly summarizing the different approaches the EPO has taken to Article 52 of the EPC, we explain the evolution of these approaches, with particular attention to the EPO's dominant “technical character” approach. Subsequently, we address the questions put to the Enlarged Board and how they might be answered. We set out our proposal for what we believe is the approach the Enlarged Board should adopt. Since this approach might have effects beyond the field of computer programs, we show that the EPO case law outside computer programs would not be altered by our approach. Two alternative approaches are then critically addressed before setting out our conclusion.
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