Clarification on software/business method patents

The Australian Appeal Court has recently clarified the position of software and business method patents in Australia. In Commissioner of Patents v RPL Central Pty Ltd, the Full Federal Court again aligned Australia with a US-centric position akin to that set out in the Alice Corporation case.


The court set out the following statements of principle: 1. “A technical innovation is patentable, a business innovation is not”, and 2. “Simply putting a business method or scheme into a computer is not patentable unless there is an invention in the way in which the computer carries out the scheme or method”.

In a clear statement, the court found that any standard operation of a generic computer with generic software to implement a business method is unlikely to result in the business method being patentable.

The court’s pronouncement amounts to the creation of a judicial exception to patentability, in line with the position in the United States and Europe. Determining what amounts to the generic operation of a computer is likely to prove difficult in practice and lead to some uncertainty in Australian decisions. It also means that many extremely innovative business methods may no longer be patentable in Australia. It is also likely that our courts will continue to look to the United States and Europe in deciding the limits of business method patents.

This article by Shelston IP Principal, Peter Treloar, first appeared in Managing Intellectual Property magazine, February 2016.