This book provides an introduction to the patenting of computer-implemented inventions and business methods, primarily from the perspective of authors familiar with the workings of the European Patent Office.
After an initial history, the bulk of the book is taken up with artificial case studies which each briefly describe an invention (as the beginning parts of a patent application might), present a corresponding claim (a single sentence defining the potential monopoly), and then analyse the patentability of such a claim before the European Patent Office. Some of the case studies are presented in sequences, each refining the preceding one.
My main gripes with the book are that it's not clear who its intended audience is, and that the analysis of the case studies does not adequately draw out general principles that would be applicable in wider situations. The case studies are also rather dense, requiring significant time and effort to follow, somtimes for only a fairly modest reward. Naturally the authors are hesitant to give general advice beyond the carefully defined scenarios of the case studies, but this caution does significantly limit the appeal and usefulness of the book.
The title suggests the intended audience is computer scientists; however the book assumes a substantial degree of familiarity with patent practice (e.g. knowledge of claim construction), which is unlikely to exist among this readership. It provides very little by way of general introduction to patent law (despite what the title might suggest), and concentrates instead almost exclusively on the exceptions to patentability in Europe (computer software, games, business methods, etc.).
A computer scientist inventor would, in any case, be well advised to engage the services of a patent attorney, who should be able to give far-more tailored advice than any book can provide.
The writing style is mixed (perhaps due to the multiple authorship) and can be a little wooden in places, with some overly long sentences and stilted English. The copy-editing could have been better: for example, the reader is variously addressed as "you" and "the reader". Despite the friendly title and glossy cover, this book is hard work.
The final chapter lists some relevant case law, which is helpful so far as it goes. However the European Patent Office's Guidelines to Examination, or Case Law book, provide much more detail and are surprisingly readable.
In summary, the book gives an interesting insight into the minds of European patent examiners, but as a primer on patent law for computer scientists, it is somewhat lacking. It might have been more appropriately marketed at non-European patent attorneys who handle computer-related inventions and would like to get a better insight into European practice.
This book was crucial to me in identifying patentable aspects of my business plan. I believe it saved me a massive amount of money by allowing me to assess the chances of a successful application before walking through the door of a patent lawyers office.
The authors have created a simple, clear structure to demonstrate the pitfalls of different types of application with each one carried through to its logical conclusion to illustrate the basic structure of an application and general rules to keep in mind. The examples also differentiate between how patent offices around the world receiving your application will view it differently; allowing you to work out where is best to file.
The only criticism that I have would be that the authors have not followed their own advice by limiting the potential of their 'invention' i.e. book in the title to stipulate that it is for computer scientists. To my mind this is a book for anyone who has an inkling of a technology related idea and will help develop said idea according to its strengths.
As a European Patent Attorney practising almost exclusively in the space of computer-related innovation, I found this book a very welcome addition to the literature relating to the European Patent Convention.
The fact is that "computer-related innovation" is everywhere. Unfortunately there is a significant amount of confusion as to what can and cannot be patented in this space, and while patent practitioners know that the cornerstone when assessing inventions in this space is "technicality", what this means remains something of an Elephant in certain computer-implemented areas of innovation.
The practice of the EPO, as established by case law, has, in my experience, taken some time to stabilise, nothwithstanding the fact that the "leading case" was decided in 2004 (Hitachi T 258/03). The book assists because in the business methods, adminstrative methods, billing and GUI space (at least) we are rather short of "positive" data points, or, to put it another way, a useful and meaningful set of criteria, that can be used when evaluating and advising on the patentability of inventions in these areas.
The examples in the book, while not having the official blessing of the EPO, provide a set of data points, some of which are considered to be technical in the right way, and some of which are not considered to be technical (again, in the right way). The authors set out their reasoning and given that these guys examine the applications, it is great that they have taken the time to set this out in print.
Since the EPC explicitly lists certain inventions as being excluded from patentability, it is, I think, inevitable that applicants innovating in these areas will have to seek specialist advice and that they cannot be expected to read this book and understand the boundaries without such advice. Indeed I note that the authors recommend this in several places.
I wholeheartedly recommend this book; I'm repeating myself, but the practice of the EPO in this area *is* complicated, and these guys have provided several pointers that will assist practitioners and applicants when *collectively* determining the most appropriate IP strategy for the applicant's innovation.