Canada: Patentability Of Computer-Implemented And Medical Use Inventions In Canada


As reported in the December 2010 and October 2011 editions of Knowledge Bytes, the patentability of computer-implemented inventions continues to be uncertain in Canada, as it is in many other jurisdictions. Uncertainty has also existed regarding patentability in the life sciences, especially as it relates to the patentability of dosage regimen.

Computer-Implemented Inventions

In considering the Amazon one-click technology, the Federal Court of Canada and the Federal Court of Appeal have, in recent years, instructed the Canadian Commissioner of Patents that:

  1. business method patents are not categorically unpatentable,
  2. inventions that provide a nontechnical solution or address a nontechnical problem may be patentable,
  3. a patentable invention need not be directed to a physical object or an act performed by a physical agent upon a physical object to produce a change in either character or condition of the object, and
  4. a patent claim is to be construed the same way for assessing subject matter eligibility as it is for all other reasons—using a purposive construction—and not a form and substance, inventive contribution or inventive concept analysis, as had been previous Patent Office policy.

In March 2013, the Commissioner issued two practice notices in an attempt to update examination policy to better reflect such guidance from the courts:

Although the guidelines retreat from demanding a technical solution to a technical problem, the guidelines do suggest that a good indication of subject matter eligibility is that a disclosure includes a significant amount of technical detail and addresses a technical problem with a technical solution – for example, a computer problem with a computer solution. The subject matter eligibility of such conventionally technical inventions has not been in doubt; regrettably, the guidelines do not seem to provide Examiners with guidance on how to determine which inventions that are not conventionally technical are nevertheless still eligible subject matter.

The new examination guidelines confirm that patent claims will be given a purposive construction during examination; however controversially, the guidelines maintain that purposive construction during examination is different from purposive construction during infringement litigation. For example, the guidelines espouse a narrow problem-solution approach for filtering out non-essential elements from a claim under examination, which non-essential elements cannot contribute to subject matter eligibility. With hardware elements filtered out of a claim, an Examiner may assert that the remnants are unpatentable abstractions, laws of nature, or mere concepts, for example. There is no basis in Canadian patent law for a problem-solution approach to purposive construction and the Supreme Court of Canada has clearly stated that claims are to receive the same purposive construction for all purposes.

The Supreme Court of Canada has also set a very high bar for concluding that a claimed element is non-essential:

For an element to be considered non-essential, ... it must be shown either (i) that on purposive construction of the words of the claim it was clearly not intended to be essential, or (ii) that at the date of publication of the patent, the skilled addressee would have appreciated that a particular element could be substituted without affecting the working of the invention.

Not surprisingly, when compared against this Canadian case law, the two practice notices issued in March 2013 will likely require further guidance from the courts to fully determine their effect on Canadian patent law.

Medical Use Inventions

On the heels of the March 2013 practice notices, the Commissioner issued an additional practice notice in June 2013, this time focused on the examination of medical use claims:

The notice confirmed the long-standing practice that medical use claims are generally considered to be patentable in Canada, so long as they do not include an active treatment or surgical step. The notice also confirmed that determining the subject matter of a medical use claim should be carried out using purposive construction as detailed in the March 2013 notice described above.

With respect to the patentability of dosage regimen, which has been a point of controversy in consideration of the decisions in Axcan and Janssen, the June 2013 notice indicates that claims that recite a dosage regimen are not excluded from patentability per se. However, if after a purposive construction, the dosage regimen is an essential element of a claim encompassing the use of a known compound, the claim will be viewed as covering a method of medical treatment, which is not patentable under Canadian law. Finally, the practice notice reiterates that to purposively construe a medical use claim, an examiner identifies the problem the inventors set out to address and the solution disclosed. This exercise generally must be performed considering the specification as a whole, recognizing that the description guides the identification of the problem and solution. As stated above in our review of the March 2013 notices, there is no basis in Canadian patent law for a problem-solution approach to purposive construction and, as such, the June 2013 notice, while attempting to clarify Canadian Patent Office Practice, has resulted in at least one new issue that will need to be settled before the Canadian courts.


Although there remains some uncertainty in the patentability of business method, software and medical use inventions, the Canadian courts and the Patent Office appear to be united in the view that there is no per se objection to this patentable subject matter. Applicants looking to protect these types of inventions should work closely with their Canadian patent counsel to maximize their chances for obtaining protection for these technological categories.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.