Computer simulations are now patentable

The High Court has told the UK Intellectual Property Office (UK-IPO) that computer-based simulations are now patentable.

Technical design methods such as computer simulated processes have previously been classed as mental acts that are NOT patentable. As well as computer programs and mathematical methods. This has now changed – meaning that companies can patent a computer simulated design process without there being a finished product.

The High Court recently overruled a UK-IPO decision to decline Halliburton’s application to patent the design process of a drill bit on the on the basis that the design process is limited to implementation on a computer. The design processes’ end result is a physical product – therefore it is patentable.

Partner at law firm Marks & Clerk Mark Kenrick said: “the High Court has made it crystal clear that an invention relating to a process for designing drill bits is neither just a computer program nor a mere mathematical method. It provides something technical – a drill bit design process – outside both of these exclusions.”

For manufacturers, this could be either good or bad news. The larger companies with access to the more sophisticated computer technology and the latest design software are at an advantage, and are now able to build up a repertoire of patents thus cementing their dominant position in the market. Smaller firms could find it hard to take advantage of patentable computer simulation design processes due to their lack of access to software and technology.