I am designing a process something like "order online and collect" or "load parcels to a van in the order of the destinations to make unloading easier" (if these were novel). Is it possible to patent something like this in the EU?

1 Answer 1


It depends on what kind of operational workflow you want to be patented.

In short, a workflow/process/method is patentable, if it has a tangible / measurable result, like a pizza recipe (take a dough, make it flat, put specific ingredient on it, heat it up to 180°C for 20-40 minutes).

In general, European patents shall be granted for an invention, in all fields of technology, provided it is new, involve an inventive step and is susceptible of industrial application.

Novelty and inventiveness will be discussed in the application process. Industrial applicability is almost always given.

You have to make sure your workflow is in any field of technology. The following list of categories shall not be regarded as inventions:

  • discoveries, scientific theories and mathematical methods;
  • aesthetic creations;
  • schemes, rules and methods for performing mental acts, playing games or doing business, and programs for computers;
  • presentations of information.

And even if your workflow avoids the above-listed categories, European patents shall not be granted in respect of:

  • inventions the commercial exploitation of which would be contrary to "ordre public" or morality;
  • plant or animal varieties or essentially biological processes for the production of plants or animals (but does not applies to microbiological processes or the products thereof);
  • methods for treatment of the human or animal body by surgery or therapy and diagnostic methods practised on the human or animal body (but does not apply to products, substances, for use in any of these methods).

If your workflow avoids all the categories above, it should be disclosed in sufficiently clear and complete manner for it to be carried out by a skilled person.

On softwares: Softwares or programs for computers are not patentable per se, but computer implemented inventions are potentially patentable. That is, you can claim a computer program, which if executed on a computer, carries out a claimed method.

  • A "workflow" as described in the question sounds suspiciously like an algorithm. I believe algorithms are unlikely to be granted as patents in the EU but I could be wrong. Indeed, the "workflow" should be unpatentable based on your answer since it well might fall under "schemes, rules and methods for performing mental acts, playing games or doing business, and programs for computers". Could you clarify this in your answer?
    – Eric S
    Nov 30, 2021 at 14:43
  • Run this search to see several examples of granted patent by the EPO that might fall into what the OP is thinking about patents.google.com/… some are about physical items being delivered efficiently.
    – George White
    Nov 30, 2021 at 17:30
  • 2
    @EricS As long as the algorithms produce a technical effect, namely solve a technical problem, they are patentable. But in addition to that, the claims shall be explicitly limited to algorithms run by technical devices, otherwise the claims may indeed fall within the category you mentioned because they encompass the algorithm as a mental act. Even if complex, there is case law at the EPO stating that it does not matter how complex the operations are, if they are not limited to technical devices they still can encompass the mental act. Dec 2, 2021 at 18:56
  • @EricS moving something around, even by hand, is enough to not fall into "mental acts" for example.
    – user18033
    Dec 2, 2021 at 19:44
  • Human contraception is not an example for missing industrial application as such. You're probably referring to the epo boa decision T 0074/93. However, that decision was about applying a contraceptive (manually) to the uterus. The argument against industrial applicability was that there is no industry for doing that. So contraceptives as such are industrially applicable.
    – user18033
    Dec 2, 2021 at 19:52

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