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Patent Process

Computer implemented inventions

In a rapidly evolving digital era, increasing intellectual input is directed to the development of technology that will be implemented in some form or another by means of computer programs. As historically unpatentable subject matter, computer implemen ted inventions are receiving more and more recognition for their crucial contribution to science and technology and patents are being granted around the world for inventions that were previously very inadequately protected.

Download slides from Erik van der Vyver's (Von Seidels) informative seminar on this topic that explored the latest trends and requirements for the patenting of computer implemented inventions.

From slide 22 there is a useful series of questions relating to "Judging Technical Effect" which is used by the European Patent Office to assess patentability. South Africa follows Britain and from February 2008, it is apparent that the British have started to follow the more liberal European Law.

Judging Technical Effect

  1. Compare claim to prior art

  2. Is there a contribution in comparison to prior art?

  3. Is contribution related to controlling a process in natural world? (if "yes" go to step 6)
    • E.g. robot in industrial environment
    • Aircraft navigation system
    • DVD recording process
  4. Does the data processing represent a physical/chemical/biological (or other natural) process or entity? (if "yes", go to step 6)
    • Not controlling process in natural world
    • Deals with data processing
    • Data represents natural processes
    • E.g. Physical, chemical, biological process or another process in nature
    • E.g. Whether condition data, congestion in telecom network, calculation of DNA profile.
  5. Is that data processing accepted by the EPO as having a technical effect (if "yes", go to step 6)
    • E.g. security (encryption), data reduction (compression), user interfacing, error correction, authenticity (digital signatures), improved user interfaces (GUI)
  6. Is the contribution inventive in light of the prior art?
    • If answer at steps 2 or 6 in negative, invention is not patentable for lack of novelty or inventiveness.
    • If answer at step 5 in negative, invention is not technical.

Biography - Erik van der Vyver

Érik van der Vyver received a degree in Electrical & Electronic Engineering with Computer Science from the University of Stellenbosch before pursuing a career as a Patent Attorney. He completed a Bachelors of Law degree while receiving training at one of the largest law firms in South Africa and is currently a qualified South African attorney and patent attorney.

Érik is a partner at the Cape Town based Intellectual Property law firm, Von Seidels, and specialises in the drafting of patent specifications (especially patents relating to electronic and electrical fields of application as well as to computer implemented inventions), the filing and prosecution of local and foreign patent and registered design applications, the drafting of patent infringement opinions, litigation in intellectual property related matters and international and local technology searches.