Charging that the United States allows “anything under the sun” to be patented, a judge in the United Kingdom has questioned whether software patents should be granted at all, ZDNet News reported.
“Do we need patents for computer programs? Where is the evidence for it?” asked Sir Robin Jacob, a judge at the U.K.’s Court of Appeal who specializes in intellectual-property law. Jacobs made the comment at a seminar for the Society for Computers and Law in London.
Last year, the European Parliament rejected the directive on the patentability of computer-implemented inventions, which became widely known as the software patent directive. Many claimed that this directive could lead to the widespread patenting of software, as is the case in the U.S, ZDNet said.
“The United States takes the view that anything made by man, under the sun, can be patented. And they have granted patents for business methods, mainly computer business methods. But as far as I can see, it would cover a new and improved method of stacking oranges on a barrel,” Jacob said.
IP rights, Jacobs said, are often justified on the “pragmatic grounds” that they encourage research and development, but that people have “got to look at all IP rights critically and say, ‘Do we need them?’”
One aspect of the patentability of computer programs that Jacob said concerns him is the searching for prior art. “It’s been said that (searching for prior art) is all going to be sorted out and will be very easy in due course — I don’t believe it,” he said. “And some of the fuzzy patents that have emerged from the United States tell you that it’s going to be very difficult to stop very ordinary things from being patented.”