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Controllable forces of nature

Controllable forces of nature is a legal test which may be useful for legislation which excludes software ideas from patentability. The test is based on case law in Germany. A similar term also existed in Japan.

The anti-software-patent movement proposed this in their amendments to the EU software patents directive in the European Parliament's first reading in September 2003, but abandoned it afterwards and moved to a test based on "applied natural science" for the second reading in June 2005.

FFII's Jonas Maebe explains:[1]

The reason the "forces of nature" are so important as a condition to have an invention, is that a computer program as such can not control the forces of nature, so this condition will properly exclude them from patentability.

In Germany

(Can you help? The following information has been gathered by someone who doesn't speak German and has to rely on translations and secondary sources. Germanophone help sought.)

This important ruling used the test of "controllable natural forces".

An English translation of a paragraph from the 1977 document was published on FFII's website:[2]

Human intellectual activity is not, according to the views of our time, among the controllable forces of nature. ... The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) refuses to subsume human thinking under the concept of "technology", because that would deprive the concept of "technology" of its "specific and distinctive meaning". By insisting on this point, the BGH is not introducing an arbitrary definition of "technology" for the sake of patent law but rather consistently adopting views which have been developped by the natural sciences and technologies themselves.

In Japan

(Can you help? This info is from before the legislative change in 2000. Is it gone now? I think it is.)

According to the JPO's guidelines:[3]

To be qualified as a "statutory invention" prescribed in the Patent Act, the claimed invention shall be “a creation of technical ideas utilizing a law of nature.” (See Part II: Chapter 1, 1)

(Can you help? "Part II" of what??)

Related pages on ESP Wiki

References