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Patent loses appeal

Written by Michael Coyle on 24 December 2006

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The Court of Appeal upheld a ruling that two software-related patents were invalid. Oil giant Halliburton's attempts to patent in the UK a software system for designing drill bits has failed. 

Compare this with the USA where a Texas court awarded Halliburton $41m in damages in the US case, but in the UK the High Court rejected Halliburton's patents on the grounds that they were poorly drafted. The Appeal court took a rigorous approach to analysing the patents.It found that that it did not adequately describe the system it sought to patent. In order to be valid a patent must describe a process so completely that a person. In the appeal, Jacob J stressed how important this is for an application, and repeated the earlier judgement that there is nothing in the description of the software that would allow a person skilled in the art to work the patent.

He said:"Patents are meant to teach people how to do things. If what is "taught" involves just too much to be reasonable allowing for all the circumstances including the nature of the art, then the patent cannot be regarded as an "enabling disclosure." That is the basic concept behind the requirement of sufficiency and one that lies at the heart of patent law [...]. The setting of a gigantic project, even if merely routine, will not do. Moreover the analogy with genetic engineering and pharmaceutical inventions is not apt. The work that goes into bringing them to market relates to testing efficacy and safety – not in actually making the invented product."

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