Software inventions are patentable in the United States and in many major jurisdictions. However, not all other countries allow extensive protection for software innovation. Two of the most important patent offices, the European Patent Office (EPO) and the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) restrict how software inventions are protected. However, you can still protect many kinds of programs in China and Europe.


The European Patent Office is prevented from registering patents "(a) discoveries, scientific theories, and mathematical methods; (b) aesthetic creations; (c) schemes, rules and methods for performing mental business, playing games or doing business; (d) com utersputers programs, offers the information ". However, there is an exception. Article 52 (2) excludes "patents for the topic or activities referred to in it only to the extent to which a European patent application or European patent relates to a subject or activities of this nature." This clause creates an exception for certain types of software innovations to be the subject of patent protection in EPO.

The patent EPO's topic includes technical elements or devices related to the invention, rather than features that are just algorithms. This is not a clear distinction. In the United States, arithmetic elements can be protected, if claimed correctly. In Europe, algorithms, such as the accounting program, that are executed on a general purpose computer are not patentable. However, software that does something to the hardware is potentially patentable. For example, software that governs communication between devices is more likely to be a protected subject. Likewise, software that speeds up graphic display functions is patented.

EPO patent applications are also organized differently from U.S. patent applications. The application must follow a problem / solution format. A technical problem is described and a solution is presented, then the invention. This is in sharp contrast to US applications where the problem description is often reduced so that it is not used against the applicant as previous art.

The claimed forms from the EPO application are embodied of the problem. EPO claims are organized as two-part claims, with an introduction stating well-known elements in the field followed by a second part with new innovative elements.


In China, software, algorithms, or computer games by themselves are not a patentable subject. Software inventions should solve a technical problem and contain physical advantages As in Europe, smart accounting algorithms or your own securities analysis are not a patent-protected subject. However, programs with physical features, such as speeding up data exchange or storing data, solve a technical problem more efficiently and are therefore potentially a patent protected subject.

Although Europe and China do not support protecting software inventions to the same degree as the United States, you can protect many types of software innovations in these jurisdictions.


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