Technical Effect

Term used in European software patents. Under the European Patent Convention, to be patentable an invention must be “susceptible of” industrial application, be new, and involve an inventive step. That is to say, an invention must have a “technical character,” i.e., it must relate to a technical field and solve a technical problem. Article 52(3) of the EPC at present prohibits the patenting of “computer programs as such.” The term “as such” has been held to mean that a pure computer program cannot be patented, but if software achieves a technical effect it has a technical character and therefore may be patented. Technical effect has been defined as something that is more than the simple physical interaction between a program and a computer. In principle, this means that the software should enable the computer to do something it was unable to do, qualitatively or quantitatively, before. Thus it might include better performance from the computer, or might involve the carrying out of previously unknown computing processes. The views of the European Patent Office are set forth in a 2000 press release entitled Patentability of methods of doing business.

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