Section 3 of the Israel Patent Law states:
. אמצאה, בין שהיא מוצר ובין שהיא תהליך בכל תחום טכנולוגי, שהיא חדשה, מועילה, ניתנת לשימוש תעשייתי ויש בה התקדמות המצאתית – היא אמצאה כשירת פטנט.
An invention, whether a product or a process in any technological field, that is new, useful, may be used in industry and has an inventive step is a patentable invention.
Prior to 1995, the Law related to agricultural or industrial, but the term agricultural was dropped.
The Guidelines to Examiners follow TRIPS and patents are allowed for any technology invention. Unfortunately, this does not clarify what is and isn’t patentable.
There are exceptions. Natural organisms and methods of therapeutic treatment are specifically excluded by section 7 of the Law.
The courts in Israel have not clarified what is and what isn’t patentable subject matter.
Clause 5 of appendix b to the Guidelines for Israel Patent Attorneys 23/1 states that
את המונח “שימוש תעשייתי” ניתן לקרוא בהקשרו של התחום הטכנולוגי (הנדון להלן) ולאור היות האמצאה מועילה. בדרך כלל, אם ניתן לשייך את האמצאה לתחום טכנולוגי כלשהו ושיש בה את התועלת המובטחת על ידי המבקש הרי שגם ניתן לעשות בה שימוש תעשייתי
My best attempt to translate this is as follows:
The term ‘industrial use’ may be read with respect to technological fields, and the invention has to have utility, to be categorizable in a specific class and to have the required usage, and will thereby be deemed as having industrial applicability.
Of particular confusion to Examiners, are medical devices, surgical diagnostic and treatment; inventions that contradict the Laws of Nature (helpfully explained as patent applications claiming new physical theories without indication of their uses; genetic sequences and other biological material without use being discussed.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Examiners would like a little more clarity. Less surprisingly perhaps, the Israel Patent Office has solicited comments from the public. We welcome this initiative.
In addition to the above fields of endeavour, responses may relate to the meanings of industrial usage, utility, technology field, process or device, and also to other restrictions to granting patents, including on the basis of Section 17c, i.e. that some other recognised jurisdiction (typically USPTO) has ruled that the invention is patentable – and that the claims in Israel are identical to those granted.
Helpfully, the patent office has included links to Guidelines for European examiners and UK examiners:
Responses may be submitted to the Israel Patent Office up until 30 October 2014 – when presumably there will be a Halloween party.
Back in 2009, I held an event titled “The boundaries of patentability”. We examined stem cell research, business methods, software and the like. The question keeps coming up.
In the US, in Diamond v. Chakrabarty, 447 U.S. 303 (1980), paraphrasing Koheleth (Ecclesiastes), Judge Burger ruled that anything under the sun made by man was considered patentable. Some US patent attorneys have tried to patent plots for films. Children, though man-made are also not considered patentable. Over the years, I’ve come across a range of clients wanting to patent cold fusion, directed Brownian motion motors (that client actually managed to obtain a patent in the US on an earlier version and had apparently been around to every patent firm). I’ve had clients wanting to patent games, including chess openings. One academic with feminist leanings has suggested that the technological industrial requirement discriminates against women who are less technical, and has suggested that patents become available for non-technical inventions.
It is about time that gene sequences per se are recognized as not patentable in Israel. The Circular on the subject is wrong.
As the issue has not been raised, I assume that the guidelines for examining computer inventions are clear to examiners. I don’t find them clear, and nor do other practitioners who’ve I’ve spoken to.
Despite the working of this call for comments, I don’t think that the patent office considers new Laws of nature as patentable subject matter. The question is whether devices that operate according to principles hitherto unknown to science, or rejected by mainstream science should be considered patentable. Should the applicant have to provide proof of utility?
It occurs to me that patent attorneys have an interest in the range of patentable subject matter being widened as this may translate into extra work. It would be nice if the Association of Israel Patent Attorneys sets up a working committee and petititions its membership for comments so as to be able to submit an official position.