Nowadays, computers (hardware) - be it in the form of commercially available personal computers, central processing units (CPUs), field-programmable arrays (FPGAs), massively parallel graphics-processing units (GPUs) or application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) - as well as the corresponding computer programs (software) play a pre-eminent role in nearly all areas of daily life. Modern electronic devices can no longer do without software-controlled microprocessors, and software-related inventions are of utmost importance i.a. for applications in the field of information technology. Software-related inventions often require a high development effort so that the question of how to protect such inventions arises. We assist our clients in obtaining patent protection in this field of technology.
The German and European legal provisions as well as the established case law have changed with the times and do provide - under certain circumstances - extensive possibilities of patenting software-related inventions. In particular, patentability is not to be denied merely on the grounds that a computer program plays a role in its realization.
Inventions which include a computer program or algorithms in principle patentable – provided that they have a technical character. In a multitude of decisions, the patent authorities have tried to more clearly define the term "technical character". In many practical cases, the technical character is lent to the invention by the problem to be solved. For example, an effect having technical character may be seen in increasing the processing speed of certain computational tasks, reducing memory requirements, increasing the accuracy of certain computational tasks, extracting additional or more reliable information from measurement data, increasing security of applications against fraud, etc. Where such a technical effect is provided by computer-implemented features, the software-related invention can be patentable even if the means for solving the problem underlying the invention such as computer, circuit, or control elements are already known or work in a known way, e.g., if the invention is implemented on a conventional CPU or GPU.
We at Kraus & Weisert have gathered comprehensive experience in this area so that our clients can rely on our professional advice for protecting inventions related to information technology and software. Kraus & Weisert represents a large number of enterprises in the field of information technology. Example fields of expertise include: machine learning and object recognition in artificial intelligence (AI), including deep neural networks such as convolutional neural networks (CNNs); general-purpose parallel computing on GPUs, ASICS, FPGAs; speech and channel coding; data processing in medical imaging; and digitally-enhanced microscopy. We have assisted our clients in achieving patent protection for core network- and terminal-functionality in telecommunications networks, including the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), G.Fast, IEEE 802.11X and many more.
Across all such fields of computer-implemented inventions, the trend of virtualization and cloud-based services imposes additional challenges to the art of patent drafting: Different logic operations may be executed by different hardware entities – which may even be physically located in different countries. To avoid un-enforceable patents, it is of utmost importance to diligently draft the patent application: This requires a holistic understanding of the overall system, while pinpointing the gist of the invention in the claims.
Moreover, different jurisdictions deal differently with computer-implemented inventions. By worldwide prosecution of numerous patent portfolios, our attorneys have acquired profound knowledge in the challenges encountered when seeking for patent protection for software-related inventions in various countries such as the United States of America, Japan, or China. This allows us to draft applications which meet these diverse and sometimes divergent requirements. It is decisive for the fate of a patent application to lay a sound foundation in the form of a well-written and comprehensive disclosure, suited for international prosecution even in light of the heterogeneous requirements imposed by the various patent authorities.
As the number of patents granted on software-related inventions increases, the challenge of successfully enforcing or defending against such patents gains importance. Due to the usually complex technology underlying software-related patents, patent litigation in this field is often challenging and requires many years of experience. We at Kraus & Weisert have been involved in various cases of litigation in the field of telecommunications and information technology, both infringement proceedings and nullity proceedings, so that we have the necessary experience to be able to offer our clients comprehensive litigation services for every phase of client activities.