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12.28.18

Australian Law Firms Fight to Bring Software Patents Back to Australia

Posted in Australia, Patents at 4:03 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: An appeal of a rejection of a patent application at IP Australia has been spun by the litigation industry of Australia; people are expected to believe that something truly massive has just happened and that software patents are miraculously rendered valid now

THE importance of Australia’s patent office (IP Australia) isn’t high because of the country’s relatively small population. Software patents in that country, however, matter to us because Australia is an English-speaking country whose policies sometimes influence (but are more often influenced by) the West. This is why we keep track of Australian patent affairs as well, albeit not so often.

The Australian Financial Review, part of the corporate media in Australia, published this misleading headline earlier this month. “ROKT win against IP Australia a victory for tech start-ups,” declared the headline (not even with quote signs, i.e. attributed to someone’s mere claims), but that’s a lie. Software patents harm startups the most. ROKT is trying to prop up some dubious patent in Australia after examiners/courts repeatedly said no. This is the latest:

The ruling sets a precedent for how IP Australia assesses innovation in software, almost four years after the authority started knocking back more software patents after a 2015 case in which the full Federal Court ruled only patents for technical innovations (like hardware developments) were acceptable, not business model innovations or methods.

The case deals with just one patent and the Federal Court isn’t the highest court. But one can be sure that law firms in Australia will leap at this opportunity nonetheless, looking to influence the outcome and market such patents to potential clients (applicants, litigation and so on).

“One can trust law firms to always twist and spin the smallest of things as monumental changes, albeit only when it suits them (and ignore those things when the outcome isn’t desirable to their bottom line).”The above case may have impact and set a precedent; but it does not mean that software are back to Australia as it’s about one single patent.

FB Rice’s Madeleine Kelly wants lots of litigation, so anything that gives legitimacy to software patents in Australia makes her eager to mislead and gets her excited. “New lease of life for software patents in Australia” was the title of her article. A more moderate headline was “IP Australia lose patent dispute over software patent” (yes, just one). To quote:

Ecommerce marketing company Rokt has won the right to have its software patent granted following a dispute with IP Australia.

In a ruling, justice Alan Robertson overruled a previous ruling from the Australian IP commissioner which denied Rokt’s patent.

Robertson found the patent to solve “not only a business problem but also a technical problem” and ordered the patent to proceed to grant.

So one patent is being granted. That is all.

Firms that aggressively lobbied for software patents (lawyers obviously!) have reared their ugly heads again. An article by Brook Dyer and Anton Blijlevens (AJ Park) said this: (mind the bizarre use of the term “computer-implemented business method”)

In Rokt Pte Ltd v Commissioner of Patents [2018] FCA 1988, a recent decision by the Australian Federal Court, it was found that a computer-implemented business method is patentable subject matter in Australia.

This decision has provided clarification regarding the extent to which computer-implemented business methods can be eligible subject matter for patent protection in Australia, which has been an area of uncertainty in recent years.

Not uncertainty; it was a ban. Moulis Legal’s Warren Wong used an artistic headline, “Between Rokt and a hard place,” and as one might expect from law firms it’s just mostly marketing wrapped up as ‘analysis’.

Just because some company managed to get a software patent granted (after expensive appeals) at a court below the top court does not mean that software patents are in general, overnight, valid in Australia. Notice that this doesn’t even deal with a lawsuit but mere examination (the lowest form of appeal). One can trust law firms to always twist and spin the smallest of things as monumental changes, albeit only when it suits them (and ignore those things when the outcome isn’t desirable to their bottom line).

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