I am a newbie here, so direct me to the right thread if this question has been asked before. I recently talked to an IP attorney and he stated that any "method" or "program" ran on a "regular computer" is not patentable - citing the 2014 Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International case. I only read that Wikipedia article and it didn't clarify anything. Seems my lawyer wanted to error on the safe side.

Here's what I have. I created a very non-obvious Java framework that leverages the latest language features, as well, as several open-source libraries to achieve hundred-times software development productivity companies like Oracle would kill for. I do not want to sell my framework, but solely use it to create my own enterprise software (finance, accounting, and other automation systems often referred to as ERP) 100+ times cheaper and better.

It's using the same building blocks: databases, etc. though in a completely different (from the mainstream) manner. It is simple and compact once one reads the documentation - based on several recent Computer Science ideas, but it doesn't have a single "wow".

Is it patentable? Perhaps you know some other programming library/framework example (non open source obviously). Or it's gotta be a yet another official "new programming language", which I am sick of. Patent trolls aside I've seen people patenting finished custom systems they did at work like "automated Mortgage Loan Origination System". Perhaps the Alice ruling aimed to stop that. It's vague. So where are the boundaries in 2015?

  • Since you want to use your framework internally only, it may be better to keep it a trade secret.
    – Eric S
    Commented Feb 5, 2017 at 15:46
  • I am keeping it secret. But it's software, half of which is running in the browser. The code, however obfuscated, is still visible to the user. Server libraries can be decompiled (reverse-engineered) as well. My ideal model is SaaS I host, but I also consider a possibility of one-off projects - a "solution provider's" route. I will not take requests to ship the code, since the client has no rights for the libraries code whatsoever. They can decompile the packaged libraries. There are server-side obfuscators, but it's always a cat and mouse game. Commented Feb 5, 2017 at 20:10
  • You should look at the SE sites regarding software engineering and look for posts (or ask the question) regarding protecting your code. You may bet useful information. I doubt you can patent an entire framework. You may be able to patent the application of a specific algorithm.
    – Eric S
    Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 15:44

2 Answers 2


You didn't write which country you are living in. I cannot tell you about the situation in the United States but only about the situation in Germany which seems to be similar in many countries of the European Union.

Here some software-based method can only be patented if the method solves a "technical" problem. This means that the method provides a new solution for a problem in the field of engineering (while software development itself does not count as "engineering").

If you invent a software that is capable to prevent overheating of a CPU, the function principle of this software may be patentable (in Germany) because it solves a "technical" problem: The problem that electronic components may be destroyed by overheating.

An example for non-patentable software is cited in the German Wikipedia:

The software in an expensive medical device in a hospital is doing some calculations; based on these calculations it can predict if buying a second device makes sense for the hospital or not.

A court decided that this patent is void because this invention does not solve a problem in the field of engineering but a problem in the field of economics. The problem solved is: It is difficult to calculate if investing money makes sense or not.

However (in Germany) you can only patent inventions that solve a problem in the field of engineering; you cannot patent inventions solving other kinds of problems.

The former owner of the patent of course had payed the patent fees before; this money was lost!

Not being an expert I doubt that your invention solves a problem in the field of engineering.

  • That's a good answer, but the case cited in the question (in re Alice) is a US case, so the question was very probably about the US. Nevertheless, nice answer for Germany.
    – user18033
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 13:50

Alice is having a big impact on US practice; there is an increased focus on a requirement for technical innovation for subject matter to be patent eligible, as compared with practice over the past decade or so which has been quite liberal with e-commerce and other business innovations. There must be "something more" than an abstract idea to be considered eligible subject matter. Wherever you have some specific technical innovation you have a potential patentable concept - which will of course be examined in the normal way (must be novel and non-obvious).

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