Is it possible to patent an algorithm?

Is it possible to patent an algorithm?

This is a good example of how words can be used differently in the patent area than everywhere else. Patent laws in most countries specifically block patentability of “algorithms” but do allow software to be patented, with varying restrictions.

In patent law, an algorithm is an abstract set of steps. Software however is a real, concrete product. Patent law permits the underlying concept of software to be patented — again, with different restrictions by country.

Different countries have different rules for how to present and describe software in patent applications so that it is patentable. Since patents are a per country right, your best bet is to speak with a patent expert in the country where you want patent protection.

In the US, software is broadly patentable. Even business method ideas may be patentable, which are the application of known technology to a new commercial problem. There are some restrictions for software that is considered to be “abstract”. Consulting with a US patent agent or attorney can help you find out whether your software is patentable.

The European Patent Office permits software to be patented with restrictions — for example, it must be technical in nature. China also permits software to be patented, as does Canada, Australia, and Israel.

Many other countries do as well, but often with restrictions.

If this is still unclear and you have any additional questions, feel free to contact us.


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