Consolidated version of the amended directive “on the patentability of computer-implemented inventions” for which the European Parliament voted on 2003-09-24.
1. The Text
Directive on the patentability of computer-implemented inventions
This Directive lays down rules for the patentability of computer-implemented inventions.
2a. "computer-implemented invention" means any invention in the sense of the European Patent Convention the performance of which involves the use of a computer, computer network or other programmable apparatus and having in its implementations one or more non-technical features which are realised wholly or partly by a computer program or computer programs, besides the technical features that any invention must contribute;
2b. "technical contribution", also called "invention", means a contribution to the state of the art in technical field. The technical character of the contribution is one of the four requirements for patentability. Additionally, to deserve a patent, the technical contribution has to be new, non-obvious, and susceptible of industrial application. The use of natural forces to control physical effects beyond the digital representation of information belongs to a technical field. The processing, handling, and presentation of information do not belong to a technical field, even where technical devices are employed for such purposes.
2ba. "technical field" means an industrial application domain requiring the use of controllable forces of nature to achieve predictable results. "Technical" means "belonging to a technical field".
2bb. "industry" in the sense of patent law means "automated production of material goods";
3a. Member states shall ensure that data processing is not considered to be a field of technology in the sense of patent law, and that innovations in the field of data processing are not considered to be inventions in the sense of patent law.
4.1. In order to be patentable, a computer-implemented invention must be susceptible of industrial application and new and involve an inventive step. In order to involve an inventive step, a computer-implemented invention must make a technical contribution.
4.2. Member States shall ensure that a computer-implemented invention making a technical contribution constitutes a necessary condition of involving an inventive step.
4.3. The significant extent of the technical contribution shall be assessed by consideration of the difference between the technical elements included in the scope of the patent claim considered as a whole and the state of the art, irrespective of whether or not such features are accompanied by non-technical features.
4.3a. In determining whether a given computer-implemented invention makes a technical contribution, the following test shall be used: whether it constitutes a new teaching on cause-effect relations in the use of controllable forces of natures and has an industrial application in the strict sense of the expression, in terms of both method and result.
4a.1. A computer-implemented invention shall not be regarded as making a technical contribution merely because it involves the use of a computer, network or other programmable apparatus. Accordingly, inventions involving computer programs which implement business, mathematical or other methods and do not produce any technical effects beyond the normal physical interactions between a program and the computer, network or other programmable apparatus in which it is run shall not be patentable.
4a.2. Member States shall ensure that computer-implemented solutions to technical problems are not considered to be patentable inventions merely because they improve efficiency in the use of resources within the data processing system.
5.1. Member States shall ensure that a computer-implemented invention may be claimed only as a product, that is as a programmed device, or as a technical production process.
5.1.a. Member States shall ensure that patent claims granted in respect of computer-implemented inventions include only the technical contribution which justifies the patent claim. A patent claim to a computer program, either on its own or on a carrier, shall not be allowed.
5.1.b. Member States shall ensure that the production, handling, processing, distribution and publication of information, in whatever form, can never constitute direct or indirect infringement of a patent, even when a technical apparatus is used for that purpose.
5.1.c. Member States shall ensure that the use of a computer program for purposes that do not belong to the scope of the patent cannot constitute a direct or indirect patent infringement.
5.1.d. Member States shall ensure that whenever a patent claim names features that imply the use of a computer program, a well-functioning and well documented reference implementation of such a program is published as part of the patent description without any restricting licensing terms.
6. The rights conferred by patents granted for inventions within the scope of this Directive shall not affect acts permitted under Articles 5 and 6 of Directive 91/250/EEC on the legal protection of computer programs by copyright, in particular under the provisions thereof in respect of decompilation and interoperability.
6a. Member States shall ensure that, wherever the use of a patented technique is needed for a significant purpose such as ensuring conversion of the conventions used in two different computer systems or networks so as to allow communication and exchange of data content between them, such use is not considered to be a patent infringement.
7.1. The Commission shall monitor the impact of computer-implemented inventions on innovation and competition, both within Europe and internationally, and on European businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises and the open source community, and electronic commerce.
8.1. The Commission shall report to the European Parliament and the Council by [DATE (three years from the date specified in Article 9(1))] at the latest on
8.1.a. the impact of patents for computer-implemented inventions on the factors referred to in Article 7;
8.1.b. whether the rules governing the term of the patent and the determination of the patentability requirements, and more specifically novelty, inventive step and the proper scope of claims, are adequate; and
8.1.c. whether difficulties have been experienced in respect of Member States where the requirements of novelty and inventive step are not examined prior to issuance of a patent, and if so, whether any steps are desirable to address such difficulties.
8.1.c.a. whether difficulties have been experienced in respect of the relationship between the protection by patent of computer-implemented inventions and the protection by copyright of computer programs as provided for in Directive 91/250/EEC and whether any abuse of the patent system has occurred in relation to computer-implemented inventions;
8.1.c.b. whether it would be desirable and legally possible having regard to the Community's international obligations to introduce a 'grace period' in respect of elements of a patent application for any type of invention disclosed prior to the date of the application;
8.1.c.c. the aspects in respect of which it may be necessary to prepare for a diplomatic conference to revise the Convention on the Grant of European Patents, also in the light of the advent of the Community patent;
8.1.c.d. how the requirements of this Directive have been taken into account in the practice of the European Patent Office and in its examination guidelines.
8.1.c.e. whether the powers delegated to the EPO are compatible with the need to harmonise Community legislation, and with the principles of transparency and accountability.
8.1.c.f. the impact on the conversion of the conventions used in two different computer systems to allow communication and exchange of data;
8.1.c.g. whether the option outlined in the Directive concerning the use of a patented invention for the sole purpose of ensuring interoperability between two systems is adequate;
8.1a In this report the Commission shall justify why it believes an amendment of the Directive in question necessary or not and, if required, will list the points which it intends to propose an amendment to.
8a. In the light of the monitoring carried out pursuant to Article 7 and the report to be drawn up pursuant to Article 8, the Commission shall assess the impact of this Directive and, where necessary, submit proposals for amending legislation to the European Parliament and the Council.