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Anti-lock braking example

Anti-lock braking (ABS) is an example of an innovation for which we are not against patenting. When we draft legal wordings, we want to be careful to focus solely on excluding software, so we should be careful to not exclude ABS.

Separating related inventions

Modern ABS systems include innovations such as measuring slippage (or predicting slippage by monitoring rotation speed) for each wheel and reducing the braking pressure on each wheel individually as necessary. This could be somewhat emulated by a skilled driver if a car had two brake pedals (say, front set and back set) and if a red light on the dashboard indicated slippage or imminent slippage. However, this page only deals with the core or original innovation of ABS, not the follow on refinements. It doesn't seem necessary to discuss all configurations of braking based on ABS.

The case

Anti-lock brakes is an invention which combines a computer, software, brakes, and wheel sensors (either to measure slippage, or to measure rotation speed so as to predict slippage). To put ABS into a car, you don't necessarily have to change the brakes, the computer, or the sensors. You can do it by changing just the software.

Some people misinterpreted this as a software invention, but this is incorrect. ABS is an innovation in ways of using brakes. Brakes use "controllable forces of nature", and are an activity of "applied natural science", and they involve "significant physical activity". So it doesn't fail any of the tests we propose.

Mass manufacturing of cars is not something that software developers do, so we have no opinion on whether ideas in that domain should be patentable.

Note: The EPO's EP 771 280 covers "the proper functioning of an ABS control unit".

Related pages on ESP Wiki

External links