India: Are Software Inventions Patentable In India?

The India IT industry has witnessed tremendous growth is the past decade, resulting in large IT companies and inceptions of several promising start-ups. In the initial phases, the IT industry was largely focused on offering services. However, eventually, several companies started creating software products. Companies that create software products strive on innovation to create unique products to counter competition, hence, the desire to protect such innovation through patents and sustain competitive advantage.

Patent laws of several countries favour patent protection for software innovation. Such countries include USA, Australia and Singapore, to name a few. However, many other countries, which include India and European nations, have more stringent laws concerning patent protection to software innovation.

Indian Patent Act offers patent protection to product or process (if they satisfy various requirements of patentability) as long as they do not fall under non-patentable subject matter. Section 3 and 4 of the Indian Patent Act specify a list of subject matter that is not patentable. Section 3(k) of the Indian Patent Act, which is provided below, is of specific importance to software innovation.

"What are not inventions – The following are not inventions within the meaning of this Act, - a mathematical or business method or a computer program per se or algorithms;"

Armatures often refer to the above section and state that none of the software innovations are patentable in India. However, the reality is far from such perceptions.

To begin with, the patent office, in its "MANUAL OF PATENT OFFICE PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE" (MPPP) offers some clarity, if not to a great extent, on what kind of software innovations will be considered as "computer program per se" and held non patentable, and what kind of software innovations do not fall under section 3(k).

Before we move any further, one thing is certain from the inclusion of such explanation in the MPPP:

Not all software innovations fall under section 3(k). Hence, a wide range of software innovations are patentable even in India.

Having said that a wide range of software innovations are patentable in India, one has to be aware that, almost all patent applications for software innovations are initially objected by the patent office citing section 3(k).

However, if the application for a patent (patent specification) is crafted intelligently by understanding the Indian patent prosecution practice, one can successfully obtain protection for software innovation.

One of the keys for successfully having a patent granted for software innovation lies in the ability to present the innovation in such a way that the innovation, which we are aiming to protect, includes subject matter which is not a computer programme. Further, subject matter that is "not just a computer program" should be intelligently made an essential part of the invention, without compromising on the scope of protection.

The above opinion is reinstated by the fact that the Indian Patent Office has been granting patents to, what is normally perceived as "software innovations". We have provided below, an exemplary list of patents granted by the Indian Patent Office to software innovations:

Company

Patent No.

Title of the patent

Google

252220

Generating user information for use in targeted advertising

Google

252156

Method and system for text segmentation

Google

246911

A method for automatically targeting web-based advertisements

Oracle

245515

Tracking space usage in a database

Oracle

252448

In-place evolution of xml schemas in databases

Ebay

242805

Facilitating micropayments between a plurality of parties

Ebay

239304

Method and system for scheduling transaction listings at a network-based transaction facility

We hope this article helps innovators in the software industry to adequately protect their innovation.

About the author: Mr. Kartik Puttaiah has more than 17000 hours of experience in patent consulting. Kartik has been instrumental in providing patent services in manufacturing, automation, medical devices, software, and telecommunication sector. He works with patent practitioners around the world to provide patent support services. He has helped companies in identifying the potential of their intellectual property and leverage their intellectual property. Additionally, he has helped companies identify IPR related risks associated with their products in various geographical territories. Further, he has worked with R&D teams of various companies in addressing technology related problems. Kartik holds a Bachelors of Engineering Degree in Industrial Engineering and Management from Bangalore Institute of Technology. He is also a registered patent agent.

Links: www.invntree.com http://www.invntree.com/blogs/are-software-inventions-patentable-india

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.

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