Friday, July 25, 2008

Infy, TCS lock horns with Red Hat over IT Patent

Interesting news item in The Financial Express about the recent stakeholder meeting on the Draft Patent Manual. Some selected extracts:

IT majors like Infosys Technologies Ltd and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) are opposing the open-source community's demand that the government drop a clause in the draft patent examination manual as it gives scope for software patenting under the Indian Patent Act of 2003.

The IT majors made their opposition clear at a meeting in Delhi, called by the government's department of industrial policy & promotion on Thursday. The dispute has been sparked by the draft manual that will guide patent examiners in their interpretation of the Indian Patent (Amendment) Act for software. Section 3(K) of the Act clearly says: "A mathematical or business method or a computer programme per se or algorithms are not patentable."


Pinaki Ghosh, the intellectual property head of Infosys, said, "We are of the opinion that software systems as well methods should be patented." Companies like Infosys want software patents along the entire software value chain from source code to software embedded in hardware. However, patenting of software is being opposed strongly by Red Hat India, the Linux based open source software company, along with science forums like the All India Peoples Science Network.

Venkatesh Hariharan, who heads Red Hat India's open source affairs, said the draft patent manual that seeks to introduce patents is not in consonance with the current legal situation. Hariharan pointed out that Section 3(K) of the Patent Act clearly says that a mathematical or business method or computer programmes per se, or algorithms, are not patentable.

He said the Patent Amendment Act 2005 had sought to introduce software patents but this was rejected by Parliament in the final version, and Section 3(k) was retained in its original shape.

"On reviewing the draft patent manual, we find that it seeks to make technical applications of software patentable. This approach was explicitly rejected by the Indian Parliament," Hariharan said. FICCI official said there has been some underlying ambiguity regarding the patenting of software with technical effect. The draft manual says that the software will be patented only if it goes into a new hardware. This FICCI is opposing this condition.

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