The England and Wales Court of Appeal has decided on the case of Aerotel Ltd. v Telco Holdings Ltd & Ors  EWCA Civ 137. This seems to be one of those decisions that splits opinions, or rather, unites them into a negative opinion regardless of the side of the software patent debate in which you stand. I’ve heard negative comments from both advocates of software patents and critics.
The case deals with two separate appeals and two different patents. First is the Aerotel Appeal with patent number 2,171,877; and Macrossan’s Appeal, with patent application number GB0314464.9. The question at stake here is the application of Art. 52 of the European Patent Convention regarding patentable subject matter. The Aerotel patent is for a telephone pre-payment system where a user obtains a code, and their credit amount and code number would be stored in memory in a special exchange. Macrossan’s patent is for an automated method of producing the documents necessary to incorporate a company.
The ruling, deliver by Lord Justice Jacob, allows the Aerotel patent, but invalidates Macrossan’s application. I have only browsed the decision, but I find the fact that the Macrossan application was not allowed quite heartening, particularly because the case relies heavily on other recent cases to reach this decision, particularly Haliburton v Smith, CFPH’s Application and Shoppalotto’s.com’s Application.
In my opinion, this enhances the latest trend to allow limited patentability of computer implemented inventions, but not allowing software patents that do not present any substantial advancement to the prior art.