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European banks patently disadvantaged

European banks risk finding themselves outpaced by US competitors in the bid to protect and exploit their intellectual property.


The great patents debate is not confined to the pharmaceuticals and biotech sectors. Press coverage may tend to focus on drugs and genetic patenting, but European financial institutions are ignoring this issue at their peril. Put simply, there is a substantial discrepancy between the way patents are viewed, and granted, in the US and their perceived importance in Europe. In the US, a patents culture has grown up, principally on the back of liberal legislation and pro-patent court rulings. US banks are increasingly adept at exploiting this at home and, intellectual property (IP) lawyers predict that they will also do so in overseas markets, notably Europe.

Before looking at why European banks are at risk, some explanation of the transatlantic patents divide is required. In the US, as a general rule, computer software and business techniques are patentable. In Europe, again as a general rule, they are not. More specifically, in Europe, software is only patentable if it involves technology and has the required technical effect.

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