Although it’s been more difficult to get software and business-method patents in the United States in the wake of court cases like the Supreme Court’s Alice decision, China is making it easier to get such patents.
Last fall, China’s State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) released draft guidelines that were more receptive to software and business method patents.
According to Bloomberg,
One of the biggest changes in the guidelines confirms that software and business methods are patentable. They seek to address concerns that some examiners have been too cautious in treating all references to business models or computers as red flags that signal unpatentability. A sentence in the draft explains that claims relating to a business method are not excluded from patentability if they contain sufficient technical features.
The guidelines also
changed language that some examiners have interpreted as barring nearly all computer program references. The guidelines clarify that inventions relating to “computer programs per se” are not patentable because those are rules and methods for mental activities.
A recent article published by a Beijing law firm says that the new guidelines will come into effect on April 1, 2017.
According to the article,
Software claims such as “a computer program product”, “a machine-readable medium”, and “an apparatus comprising a processor configured to execute instructions on a computer-readable medium to perform steps of …” shall become patent-eligible. A comprehensive protection for software related patents is now expectable.
With respect to business method patents, says the article,
Business method per se is still not eligible for patent under the revised Guidelines though, a window is opened. An invention related to business method is usually implemented by software in practice, and viewed to include technical features. For patent applications involving such business method, examiners from the SIPO may possibly conduct regular examination, searching prior art and raising objections for novelty or inventive step, instead of rejecting for non-eligibility only.