Obstacles to Innovation in India: Software Patents

Will new patent guidelines on software have an adverse impact on Indian startups and innovation? Such software patents may have an impact in software innovation in the age of the Internet of Things.

Times of India reports that the Indian Patent Office's recent guidelines, declaring that software and business methods are patentable in India, has set off alarm bells across the software product industry.

The patent office for the first time made a clear interpretation of the Patents (Amendment) Act, 2002 to mean that if a software has novelty, is inventive or tangible, and has proper technical effect or industrial application, it can be patented. The guidelines serve as a reference for officers in granting patents. Software product industry experts are against modifying the law to make computer programs easily patentable, arguing that innovation in the area is often incremental and programs are built on top of other programs.

They cautioned that if the guidelines are made into law, programmers will be barred from using a particular method to solve a problem without the permission of the idea's owner, like in the US. The new guidelines will make it easier for companies to file for software patents in India, but for startups, for whom innovation is critical, the upside is almost none.

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