India's patent office, administered by the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks (CGPDT), has issued an order excluding software patents in its revised guidelines for computer related inventions. Only genuine applications claiming a novel hardware component along with software will be eligible for patent protection.
The order, published on February 19, excludes mathematical methods, business methods, computer programmes, and algorithms from the realm of patentable subject matter.
The patent office had earlier published the guidelines in mid-2015, which allowed the patenting of software which demonstrated technical advancement. "If a computer programme is not claimed by 'in itself' rather, it has been claimed in such manner so as to establish industrial applicability of the invention and fulfils all other criterion of patentability, the patent should not be denied," section 4.5.4 of the guidelines published on August 2015 reads.
SFLC.in, a New Delhi-based non-profit, said that it collaborated with Bengaluru-based think tank ISPIRT (Indian Software Product Industry Round Table) and other civil society organisations, academicians and start-ups in writing a joint letter to the Prime Minister's Office, concerned ministries and the patent office requesting to recall the guidelines.
The 2015 guidelines could have resulted in making it difficult for software developers to innovate with the expansion of scope of software patentability, said Prasanth Sugathan, counsel at SFLC.in, who represented the organisation at the consultations.
"The legislature by limiting the scope of patentable subject matter in the field of software wanted our software professionals and industry to innovate and not be stifled by companies holding a stockpile of patents. We are grateful to the Government and the patent office for listening to our feedback and suggestions and preserving the freedom of our coders and entrepreneurs to innovate without shackles," he said.
"This government initially with its approach towards Net Neutrality and now with its stand on software patents has shown that it is betting big on the innovation economy and will not let anything hinder the freedom to innovate. We hope to continue to work with the Government and the Patent Office to ensure that innovation is encouraged and to limit the grant of irregular patents," said Mishi Choudhary, Executive Director, at SFLC.in in an emailed statement.