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Automating Invention is Robert Plotkin's blog on the impact of computer-automated inventing on the future of invention and patent law.

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June 21, 2005

European Parliament Renames the "Software Patent Directive"

ZDNet UK has an article reporting that the European Parliament has proposed changing the name of the so-called "software patent directive" to use the term "computer-aided invention" in place of the old term, "computer-implemented invention." For those of you who can't see what difference this could possibly make, the stated reason for the proposed change is to make it clear that software is not patentable per se, but rather only as part of an innovation that uses software "to aid the performance of the invention."

These and other attempts over the years to find just the right term to define patents on software are, in my view, doomed to fail. One motivation for my "software patent puzzle" (see parts 1 and 2) is to demonstrate that there is no principled way to use the hardware/software distinction as a basis for distinguishing patentable inventions from unpatentable ones.

Instead, I propose that we focus our attention on the patentability of "computer-generated inventions." Examples of computer-generated inventions include software (a computer generates software when you program the computer) and any device whose design is generated by a genetic algorithm or other artificial creativity software.

It is the "computer-generated" feature of software that keeps causing problems for patent law, and that will continue to cause problems for patent law as computers automate the invention of things other than software. I can't justify that claim in a single blog posting, but I tried to make the basic argument here, and will continue to extend the argument in future postings.

Posted by Robert at June 21, 2005 4:53 PM
category: Artificial Invention | Design & Engineering | Software Patents

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