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Are software inventions patentable in India?

Yes, innovations in the field of software and mobile applications can be patented in India. The Indian patent office defines software inventions under the category of Computer Related Inventions, one or more features of which are embodied wholly or partially by means of a computer program(s). Such inventions have been described in the guidelines published by the patent office for examination of computer related inventions, or CRIs.

Generally, patent applications covering subject matter related to software inventions have been divided into different categories by the patent office, including, (i) Method / Process, (ii) Apparatus / System, (iii) Computer readable medium, and, (iv) Computer Program Product.

In case of patent claims claiming a method or a process, the patent office excludes business methods, mathematical formulae, algorithms, and computer programs per se. Specifically, if method claims or process claims relate to computer related innovations having novel and inventive aspects, such method claims are patentable in accordance with Indian patent laws.

In case of patent claims claiming an apparatus or a system, the patent office has stated that patents can be granted to computer related inventions wherein novelty, inventive step, and industrial applicability is found by way of hardware combined with software applications. In use, such claims may be patented in “means plus function” format.

While drafting software patents and writing patent claims, use of means-plus-function claim is common. Specifically, while drafting patent claims, means-plus-function claims can be used to express technical and functional terms of the invention to describe multiple aspects of the invention.

In case of patent claims claiming Computer readable medium, or, Computer Program Products, the Indian patent office categorizes such patent claims as computer programs per se, and hence such claims may not be patented in accordance with Indian patent laws.

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