India Patent Office puts on hold norms for software patenting

New Delhi: The Indian Patent Office has put in abeyance new guidelines on examination of computer-related inventions (CRIs) such as software programmes.

After the guidelines amending relevant provisions were out in August, several associations strongly opposed the move, saying the norms are "detrimental" to the domestic IT sector.

"In view of several representations received regarding interpretation and scope of Section 3(k) of the Patents Act 1970 (as amended), the guidelines for Examination of Computer Related Inventions (CRls)... are kept in abeyance till discussions with stakeholders are completed and contentious issues are resolved," the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks said in an office order.

According to the Section 3(k) of the Indian Patents Act, a mathematical or business method or a computer programme per se or algorithms are not inventions.

Experts said the guidelines issued in August could place the Indian software industry at the mercy of multinational corporations.

"In India, software has a copyright protection. Computer software should not get patent protection as it will make life of software developers difficult. It will also lead to more and more litigations," National Intellectual Property Organisation (NIPO) President T C James said. James said big companies from countries like the US are lobbying hard for patent protection for software in India.

Welcoming the order, Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC), a non-profit organisation, said irregular patents to software will put shackles on innovation, thus potentially affecting startups.

"Boundaries of these patents are hazy and research has shown that this leads to increased litigations," SFLC counsel Prasanth Sugathan said in a statement. In India, over 95 per cent of these irregular patents have been granted to foreign entities, he added.

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