IPO: CRIs guidelines kept in abeyance till contentious issues resolved

The Indian Patent Office (IPO) has issued an office order on December 14, 2015 stating that the Guidelines for Examination of Computer Related Inventions (CRls) issued on August 21, 2025 will be kept in abeyance till discussions with stakeholders are complete and contentious issues are resolved. This order seems to have been issued in light of several representations that were received regarding the scope and interpretation of Section 3(k) of the Patent Act, 1970 adopted by the 2015 guidelines. Till the time this issue is resolved, the order states that Chapter of the Manual of Patent Office Practice and Procedure, containing provisions pertaining to section 3 (k) of the Patents Act 1970 will continue to be applicable.

Rajiv and Swaraj have discussed the scope and effect of these guidelines in detail here and here. The interpretation of section 3(k) which excludes “a mathematical or business method or a computer programme per se or algorithms” has been and continues to be a vexing issue both in theory and in practice.

Particularly, the meaning of “computer programs per se” has caused confusion. Legislative intention ascertained from legislative history, however, seems to suggest that software in itself or when combined with general purpose hardware is not patentable but if combined with ‘novel hardware’ may be considered as patentable subject matter (see Madhulika’s post here). The guidelines, however, dilute this exception and seem to provide an interpretation which broadens the range of computer programs that are amenable to patent protection.

Though the guidelines have no legal backing, as explained by Swaraj in his post here, they are meant to provide clarity on how to interpret provisions of the Patent Act and they ‘guide’ Patent examiners while examining and granting patents. Since the guidelines came into force with immediate effect, the order to keep them in abeyance till these issues are discussed with stakeholders, is a welcome first step. It is still a first step because the end result of these representations/discussions will still be reflected only in a non binding guideline. But this first step may be a stepping stone to legislative clarification itself.

Thank you to our readers for bringing this office order to our notice.

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