Software patents in Israel

The long awaited guidelines regarding the patentability of software inventions in Israel have finally been published by the Israel Patent Authority.

In brief, it appears that the term ‘industrial application’ as required by section 3 of the Israel Patent Law 1967 may be fulfilled by patents in any field of technology.

  1. Software inventions having a real world effect are considered technological and thus patentable. To establish whether a  software implemented invention is technological it has to be considered in its entirety. I think this means that the Commissioner of Patents requires examiners to take a holistic approach to the question.
  2. Business methods are not considered industrial, nor are algorithms.
  3. A real world effect may be indicated by something that may be perceived by the senses.
  4. Software that creates new links and causes a computer to work better or faster may be considered a real world effect.
  5. Software per se, abstract thought processes and algorithms not having a real world effect are not patentable, but may be protected as a literary creation under copyright law.
  6. Beauregard claims are allowable.
  7. A software invention that enables automation that is more than simply doing something automatically that could previously be achieved manually, may be patentable.  I think this means that software inventions that enable a result to be obtained that could not hitherto realistically be obtained, could be patentable.

Helpfully, the relevant guidelines for the Examiner are appended to the circular, together with a number of specific examples from real patent applications, a verdict regarding whether the claimed invention is patentable subject matter and a brief explanation.

For reference purposes, I am reproducing the examples below:

GB 2391348

A data processing apparatus, comprising:
a processor;
a compiler for compiling application code to generate instructions for execution by the processor;
a non-invasive trace unit coupled to the processor for generating, from input signals received from the processor, trace signals indicative of the instructions being executed by the processor;
the compiler being arranged to control the compilation of the application code dependent on the trace signals.

This is considered patentable.

GB 2407655

A method of operating a computing device having an operating system and a dynamic link library containing a plurality of functions accessible by an executable program, each function in the dynamic link library being associated with an ordinal number, the method comprising:
Providing the dynamic link library as a first part and an extension part each containing one or more of the plurality of functions;
Causing the executable program to link to functions in the first part directly by means of the associated ordinal numbers;
and 
Causing the executable program to link to functions in the extension part indirectly via a further library containing additional functions.

This is also considered patentable.

WO2007002296

A method for automatically calculating a discount for a customer offered by a merchant through a reservation system, comprising:
accessing at least one reservation file relating to a reservation;
accessing transaction data relating to at least one payment card transaction;
comparing one or more elements of the transaction data against one or more elements of the reservation file to determine a match;
and electronically calculating the discount based on[e or more] one or more elements of the transaction data and one or more elements of the reservation file.

This is considered non-patentable as although computer implemented, the real world effect is a business method which is not considered as having a technological effect.

EP 1301912

A method of operating a transaction processing system enabling users to authorize transactions, said system comprising a central transaction processing system (19) having at least a first data communications interface and a second data communications interface, comprising the following steps carried out by said central transaction processing system (19):
receiving transaction data from an offering party, relating to a specific transaction to be authorized by a user, and receiving a first transaction reference (TRN) relating to and uniquely identifying said specific transaction, via a first data communication path (16), at said first data communications interface;
generating a second transaction reference (TRR) which is different to the first transaction reference (TRN) and which uniquely identifies the transaction within the central transaction processing system (19);
sending said second transaction reference (TRR) to the offering party; after receiving said transaction data, conducting communications over a second data communication path (22), different to said first data communication path, with said user over said second data communications interface;
using said second path, conducting a secure access procedure in which authentication data is received and said authentication data is verified;
using said second path, receiving said first transaction reference (TRN) relating to and uniquely identifying said specific transaction from said user, said transaction reference not being previously transmitted to said user in said second communication path (22);
using said second path, receiving confirmation from said user; and
in response to said confirmation, transmitting an authorization signal to authorize said transaction, said authorization signal including said second transaction reference (TRR), wherein said second transaction reference (TRR) is not known to said user.

Despite being applied to business applications, there is a technological effect of improved data security so the claimed invention is patentable.

GB 2171877

A method of making a telephone call from any available telephone, comprising: obtaining a special code by making a prepayment;
inserting the prepayment in a memory in a special exchange and being allocated to the special code in the memory for use in verifying a calling party call;
dialing the special exchange when a telephone call connection is desired;
inputting the special code for verification; inputting the number of called party;
verifying at the special exchange by checking the special code and comparing the prepayment less any deductions for previous calls in the memory with the minimum cost of a call to the called party station;
connecting the called and calling parties’ stations in response to said verification; monitoring the remaining prepayment less deductions for the running cost of the call;
and disconnecting the call when the remaining prepayment has been spent by the running cost of the call.

Despite being a business method, by virtue of the ‘special exchange’, there is a redeeming device and the invention is patentable.

GB 2418281

A method of creating a document having a displayable area on which information is placed, the method comprising:
a. providing a plurality of content-items which contain information that it is possible to display on the displayable area;
b. dividing the displayable area into a set of subareas each capable of receiving one or more of the content-items;
c. generating at least one set of proposed arrangements in which the content items have been arranged within the set of sub-areas;
d. selecting at least one of the proposed arrangements, according to predetermine criteria, as the layout of the content-items within the sub-areas of the displayable area to create the document; and
e. causing a printing means to print the created document.

This is considered simply automation of manual type-setting and is not considered as patentable.


US 2007033615

A method for transferring programs to a secondary storage device using an interactive television program guide implemented on user television equipment, to cause a first display: in a display screen of at least one program listing related to at least one program;
using the interactive television program guide to enable a user to select a program listing from at least one displayed program listing;
using the interactive television program guide to cause the program related to the selected program listing to be recorded on a digital storage device;
using the interactive television program guide to cause a second display in the display screen that includes at least one recorded program listing for at least one program recorded on the digital storage device, wherein at least one recorded program listing includes a recorded program listing for the program recorded on the digital storage device;
using the interactive television program guide to enable the user to select the recorded program listing to transfer the recorded program from the digital storage device to a secondary storage device; and
using the interactive television program guide to transfer the recorded program from the digital storage device to the secondary storage device.

This is considered as having a real world effect and is therefore patentable.

 

EP 1062615

A method of monitoring, diagnosing and treating medical conditions of a plurality of remotely located patients using a central data processing system configured to communicate with and receive data from a plurality of respective patient monitoring systems, wherein each patient monitoring system is capable of receiving and storing patient data, the method comprising the steps of:
obtaining patient data from a plurality of patient monitoring systems at the central data processing system;
analyzing the obtained patient data from each respective patient monitoring system at the central data processing system to identify medical conditions of each respective patient;
displaying identified patient medical conditions for each respective patient in selectable, prioritized order according to medical severity; and
in response to selecting an identified medical condition for a respective patient, displaying treatment options for treating the medical condition.

This is considered as having a real world effect. Presumably the diagnosis – since methods of treatment are not statutory subject matter under Section 7(i).

WO 2010128511

A method for determining a matching score between a first set of H1 feature points, and a second set of n2 feature points, the method comprising the procedures of: producing a triple-wise affinity tensor, including the affinity score of assignments of triplets of feature points of said first set of feature points and triplets of feature points of said second set of feature points; determining a leading eigenvector of said triple-wise affinity tensor; iteratively producing a binary optimal assignment vector by discretization of said leading eigenvector; and determining a matching score between said first set of feature points and said second set of feature points according to said triple-wise affinity tensor and according to said optimal assignment vector.

As claimed, not patentable, since the invention relates to a mathematical abstraction. If image analysis and comparison using the method had been claimed, the result would have been different.

WO 2006082590

A method for adaptive filtering of at least one pixel having an initial value of an image composed of pixels, the method comprising: calculating local expected value for the pixel; calculating local signal to noise ratio; calculating local filtration ratio based at least on said local signal to noise ratio; calculating a weighted average of the initial value and local expected value using said local filtration ratio as weight; and assigning the weighted average as a new value for the pixel.

Since this is applied to at least one pixel, this is not an abstract algorithm, but rather an applied algorithm for image processing and is patentable. Furthermore, this cannot be simply considered as automation of something formerly done by hand since manually processing in this manner would not have been practicable.

 

WO 01/37131

A method of classifying an image, comprising the steps of segmenting the image into a plurality of regions and, for each of at least one of the regions: quantifying each of a plurality of visual properties of the region on a numeric scale for the property; comparing each quantified property with a plurality of bands of the numeric scale for the property, each band being associated with a computer-readable character; and arranging in a predetermined order the characters associated with the bands in which the quantified properties fall to form a region character string.

Can not be done manually and classification is considered a real world effect. Patentable.

 

WO 2005005004 

A method comprising the following steps to be performed electronically: selecting at least two participants from a plurality of participants; presenting a first image to each selected participant; and requesting each said selected participant to provide a description of said first image.

Although implemented by a computer, this is a manual process and is therefore not industrially applicable.

 

EP1184798

1.    A method of processing and presenting data, comprising the steps of:
(1) identifying claim dependencies of claims in a user-selected patent;
(2) constructing a patent claims hyperbolic tree for said user-selected patent using said identified claim dependencies; and
(3) displaying said patent claims hyperbolic tree. 

4.    A method of processing and presenting data, comprising the steps of:
(1) retrieving patent citation information pertaining to a user-selected patent, wherein said patent citation information is backward patent citation information or forward patent citation information;
(2) constructing a patent citation hyperbolic tree using said retrieved patent citation information; and
(3) emphasizing nodes of said patent citation hyperbolic tree according to time-based criteria, wherein said time-based criteria includes at least one of filing date, priority date, length of pendency, effective filing date, invention date, critical date, on-sale date, public disclosure date, and public use date.

Although computerized, could be performed manually by a data searcher, therefore not patentable. However, if linked to specific electronic processes, might be considered patentable.

EP 1618498

A method for managing a treelike data structure for text-to-phoneme mapping for automatic speech recognition or text-to-speech, which method comprises steps for creating a decision tree comprising a parent node and at least one leaf node, said method comprising also steps for searching data from said nodes, characterized in that the decision tree is created by storing the nodes sequentially in such a manner that nodes follow the parent node in storage order, wherein the nodes refining the context of the searchable data can be reached without a link from their parent node.

Unlike the previous example, by virtue of the highlighted section, the claimed software implemented invention is linked to specific hardware and is thus patentable.

COMMENTS

In general, I think the Commissioner has got this right.

It is a shame that the guidelines issued a year after they were promised.

3 Responses to Software patents in Israel

  1. Larry Rublin says:

    In general, I think that the Commisioner got it more or less right … but for the wrong reasons.

    The guidelines are still premised on the rather outdated and basically indefensible notion that computer implemented inventions are not intrinsically technological in nature. Try explaining that to anyone under 40 years old who grew up in a world where computing devices are the ultimate expression of a technological society.

    However, if you reread the “technology tests” in the guidelines as “novelty / obviousness” tests, it all works out just fine. An “invention” that just manipulates known computer principles without effecting a novel “real world” difference can be technological … but it still won’t be patentable if it just “uses a computer per se” because all its limitations will already be known.

    Bottom line, I’m not happy with the logic, but I’m OK with the result. At least until I find a case where my technological/obvious test swapout doesn’t work.

  2. Fredrik Egrelius says:

    Are the guidelines in English and publically available via a URL?

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