Patent issues in relation to computer games and apps
Produced in partnership with Harbottle & Lewis LLP
Patent issues in relation to computer games and apps

The following IP guidance note Produced in partnership with Harbottle & Lewis LLP provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Patent issues in relation to computer games and apps
  • Patent protection for computer games and apps
  • Patentability principles
  • Examples of patentable game features
  • Examples of non-patentable game features
  • Patent infringement
  • Cross-border issues
  • Comparison with protection by copyright and design rights

As of exit day (31 January 2020) the UK is no longer an EU Member State. However, in accordance with the Withdrawal Agreement, the UK has entered an implementation period, during which it continues to be subject to EU law. This has an impact on this Practice Note. For further guidance, see Practice Note: Brexit—IP rights.

Patent protection for computer games and apps

Various aspects of computer games and apps may be patentable in Europe, although in several respects, games and apps may fall within the exclusions for non-patentable subject-matter. An examination of case law provides examples of where the dividing lines between patentable and non-patentable may lie.

The decision on whether to seek patent protection will also be influenced by limitations on the extent of copyright protection for software code where what is reproduced consists only of the ‘look and feel’, or the user interfaces.

Computer game patents have been the subject of infringement litigation in the High Court of England and Wales. Issues of construction arise where the invention consists of apparatus 'for' a specified function, in particular as to whether unprogrammed hardware infringes such a claim.

Due to the roles of different intermediaries in the supply of games and apps, and the distributed nature of technical infrastructure such as the Internet, issues may also arise as to who is liable