Revisions to Chinese Patent Examination Guidelines
New Chinese Patent Examination Practices Enhance Protections to Innovations related to Business Models and Software Programs
The recently announced revisions to the Chinese Patent Examination Guidelines (“Guidelines”) which will be in effect on 01 April 2017, will enhance protections to innovations related to business models and software programs.
Under the current Chinese patent laws, mental activities shall not be granted a patent and business models merely involve mental activities are not patentable in general. However, the rapid growth of new business process, such as those adopted with new financial concepts and information technologies, have raised challenge to such practice and demand for a more sophisticated practice to protect such type of inventions. In response to this demand, the SIPO makes revisions to provide a clarification that if a business model related innovation contains technical features as well, it should not be prohibited from being patentable due to the fact that it contains business rules.
In the current Guidelines, it is provided that a patent claim related to a software program may be drafted as a process claim or an apparatus claim. Further, it is provided that if it is drafted as an apparatus claim, it shall be more or less like an apparatus claim which is delimited with functions of hardware. However, such requirement may cause confusion in case that the innovation contains both software and hardware. In this respect, the SIPO makes revisions to allow claims related to such type of innovations to be drafted in a way that not only contains features of hardware but also computer program.
With the revisions to the Guidelines, innovations related to business models and software programs will be better protected in China and it will be encouraging to companies to invest more efforts in research and development.