A software patent has been defined by the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) as being a "patent on any performance of a computer realised by means of a computer program". The FFII and other campaign groups argue that such patents should not be granted.
Most countries place some limits on the patenting of invention involving software, but there is no legal definition of a software patent. For example, U.S. patent law excludes "abstract ideas", and this has been used to refuse some patents involving software. In Europe, "computer programs as such" are excluded from patentability and European Patent Office policy is consequently that a program for a computer is not patentable if it does not have the potential to cause a "further technical effect" beyond the inherent technical interactions between hardware and software.
There is intense debate over the extent to which software patents should be granted, if at all. Important issues concerning software patents include:
- Where the boundary between patentable and non-patentable software should lie;
- Whether the inventive step and non-obviousness requirement is applied too loosely to software; and
- Whether patents covering software discourage, rather than encourage, innovation.
Famous quotes containing the word patent:
“This is the patent age of new inventions
For killing bodies, and for saving souls,
All propagated with the best intentions.”
—George Gordon Noel Byron (17881824)