1. Major points of amendments

① Such expression as “medium + computer program flow” was allowed

According to the Guidelines for Patent Examination before amended, a claim relating to an algorithm, or mathematical computing rules, or computer programs per se, or computer programs merely recorded in media, etc. does not constitute the subject matter for which patent protection may be sought. By contrast, according to the amended Guidelines for Patent Examination, a claim relating to an algorithm, or mathematical computing rules, or computer programs per se, or computer programs per se merely recorded in media, etc. does not constitute the subject matter for which patent protection may be sought.

For example, a computer-readable storage medium or a computer program product that is merely defined by recorded program per se does not constitute the subject matter of patent protection. However, a computer-readable storage medium or a computer program product that is defined by computer program flow does constitute the subject matter of patent protection.

② It was clarified that an apparatus claim may include a program flow

Components of an apparatus claim may include not only hardware(s), but also a program flow. According to the amended Guidelines for Patent Examination, improvement to a program flow may be described directly and clearly in an apparatus claim, avoiding to taking the program flow as method or function for defining hardware(s).

In other words, when an apparatus claim includes a component defined by a program flow, such a claim would not be rejected as unclear on the ground that the kind thereof is unclear since this component is merely defined by a program flow.

③ “function module” was renamed as “program module”

According to the Guidelines for Patent Examination before amended, when drafting claims of an invention application relating to computer programs to be an apparatus claim, the apparatus may include function modules completely corresponding to each step in the computer program flow or each step in a process claim. By contrast, according to the amended Guidelines for Patent Examination, the name of the respective modules was amended from “function module” to “program module”. Thus, the respective modules in such an apparatus claim would not be understood as function modules defined by function.

2. Influence of the amendments to Guidelines for Patent Examination on the drafting manner of claims

According to the amended Guidelines for Patent Examination, in addition to a method claim, claims of invention application relating to computer programs may be drafted as the following three types of claims.

① Medium + computer program flow

For Example, “A computer-readable storage medium with computer programs (instructions) stored thereon which, when executed by a processor, carry out the following steps: …/ carry out the steps of the method of claim X”.

② Apparatus including a component defined by a program flow

For Example, “A computer device including a memory, a processor and a computer program stored on the memory and executable by a processor, wherein the processor, when executing the computer program, carries out the following steps: …”.

③ Claim constituted by program modules

Such drafting manner is identical with that in which an apparatus is defined by modules completely corresponding to each step in the computer program flow or each step in a process claim according to the Guidelines for Patent Examination before amended, except that the name of the modules was amended to “program module” from “function module”.

According to the above amendments to Guidelines for Patent Examination, an invention application relating to computer programs may drafted in several manners, and the applicant may select one in favor of effective protection for an invention relating to computer programs to draft the claims, thereby benefiting the applicant.