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There is a book from before the PC age that describes how to manually do something that could be done with software. A number of websites describe how to do this manually still, though apparently no one has written the program. Is automating a thoroughly described analogue process patentable?

In other words, is just moving an idea into the computer world original enough?

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In that case I'd like to patent the characters '1' and '0'... – Jim Jul 23 '13 at 21:32

A raging debate among the judges at the court that hears all patent appeals cases. Right now it depends on the details and on which three judges you get on your panel when it goes to appeal.

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Not in Europe, New Zealand, India..... where a patent must have an inventive step, and be of a technical character (excludes software per se) e.g.

EU - excluded matter defined in - Article 52 (2):

The following in particular shall not be regarded as inventions within the meaning of paragraph 1:

(a) discoveries, scientific theories and mathematical methods;

(b) aesthetic creations;

(c) schemes, rules and methods for performing mental acts, playing games or doing business, and programs for computers;

(d) presentations of information.

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