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Federal Court of Australia rules against online gambling patent

The Federal Court of Australia has ruled against Aristocrat for the patent of an electronic gambling machine (EGM).

The Court reversed the decision of the primary judge against Aristocrat to clarify the eligibility for patents. The Federal Court noted that patent eligibility does not occur via a two-stage enquiry as previously held by the primary judge. Instead, the judges asked the questions of whether the invention claimed for patent is a computer-implemented invention, and if so, can this invention be broadly described as an advance in computer technology?

The majority of judges found it hard to define EGMs as anything other than a computer. This was because at the priority date of the invention, it was common knowledge that EGMs were distinguished based on their capacity to engage and entertain the users who played them. This made it difficult to apply EGMs to the terminology used by the Patent Office, such as “generic computer technology” or “generic software”, and expressly say that EGMs represent an advance in computer technology.

Additionally, the majority of judges held that the gambling game on the EGM alone does not qualify as the inventive step in patentability. This is because it is the relationship between the game and the EGM that requires implementation. Aristocrat accordingly was not permitted to patentability in this regard as even though the game may have constituted advances in gaming technology, it did not advance computer technology. However, an EGM may still be patentable if Aristocrat can demonstrate its ability to advance computer technology through clear delineation rather than abstract ideas.

Ultimately, the Federal Court held that Aristocrat was ineligible for patent protection and remitted the case back to the primary judge.

For the full reading of the judgment, see here.

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