This information originally appeared as a news item on 12 May 2010.
The Enlarged Board of Appeal of the EPO has handed down its opinion on referral G 3/08, taking the opportunity to set out and confirm the approach of the EPO regarding the patentability of computer programs under the European Patent Convention (EPC).
The opinion relates to four questions referred to the Enlarged Board in October 2008 by the President of the EPO concerning points of law of fundamental importance for the Office's patenting practice in this field.
The Enlarged Board analysed in detail the development of relevant case law, and found that there was a divergence between two decisions of Technical Boards of Appeal. However, recognising that the "case law in new legal and/or technical fields does not always develop in linear fashion, and that earlier approaches may be abandoned or modified", the Enlarged Board found that this constituted a legitimate development rather than a conflict of case law.
In the absence of conflicting Board of Appeal decisions, the Enlarged Board concluded that the legal requirements for a referral were not met. Nevertheless, the Board affirmed the right of the President of the EPO to "make full use of the discretion granted by Article 112(1)(b) EPC" in making a referral, and provided further guidance on how these requirements for such a referral should be interpreted.