No software patents for programming language constructs

Software patent news from the EPO: Programming language constructs cannot be patented – not the commands, not their syntax and not their operational semantics, according to this recent examination appeal decision.

The patent application related to MATLAB‘s SPMD command. In case you don’t know, according to Wikipedia SPMD (single program, multiple data) is a technique employed to achieve parallelism, where tasks are split up and run simultaneously on multiple processors with different input in order to obtain results faster. SPMD is the most common style of parallel programming.

However, both the SPMD command and the way it is to be executed on a parallel computer system are not technical, said board of appeal 3.5.06:

„However, programming language constructs are even more abstract than programs which are as such excluded from patentability. Furthermore, programming is a mental act, and programming language constructs have the intrinsic aim of enabling and easing the work of a programmer which itself lacks technical character.“

This is consistent with the board’s earlier decisions on patent applications involving programming, programming languages, and algorithms (as I’ve written here and here).

In case you’re interested, you can read the whole decision here: T 0790/14 (Programming language construct/MATHWORKS) of 12.1.2018

Photo by Farzad Nazifi on Unsplash

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