Halliburton wins software patentability appeal

Halliburton has won an appeal hearing in the UK on the issue of software patentability.

According to patent attorneys Withers & Rogers, the decision makes it possible for businesses to obtain patent protection in the UK for various computer implemented design and simulation tools, among other things, which may have previously been blocked by some specific UK exclusions.

Halliburton had filed several patent applications relating to a computer-aided design and simulation system, which it had developed for designing drill bits in order to pursue mining, or oil and gas operations.

Objections were raised by the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) and the application was subsequently rejected on the grounds that the design and simulation method could be performed mentally by an appropriately skilled engineer, and fell within the ‘mental act’ exclusion from patentability.

Following an appeal hearing in the High Court in July, HHJ Birss QC ruled yesterday that the ‘mental act’ exclusion should be construed narrowly, such that it applies in part to various specialist forms of mental arithmetic, or to memory improvement techniques.

Nick Wallin, patent attorney at Withers & Rogers said: ‘The UKIPO’s approach on what can and can’t be patented in the software field is increasingly being chipped away.

‘With this case the “mental act” exclusion can no longer be used in a blanket way to prevent engineers who are developing simulation and computer-aided design and simulation systems from obtaining patent protection for their inventions.

‘This decision will be good news for those involved in the development of a wide range of computer-aided design and simulation technologies, as well as in other fields such as artificial intelligence or automatic-recognition systems.’