Chinese character word processor software patentable in Australia: CCOM Pty Ltd v Jiejing Pty Ltd [1994] FCA 1168

The invention by CCOM was to the use of computer technology, for example word processors, to store and retrieve Chinese characters, which are much harder to generate on a computer then alpha numeric characters.

The Honours found that contrary to the primary judges decision, following NRDC, the relevant field of economic endeavour is the use of word processing to assemble text in Chinese language characters. The [artificial] end result achieved is the retrieval of graphic representations of design characters, for assembly of text. The mode or manner of obtaining this, which provides particular utility in achieving the end result, is the storage of that as to Chinese characters analysed by/type categories, for search and selection by reference thereto.

The Honours also emphasised that it was incorrect to ask, when determining manner of manufacture, was there anything new and unconventional in computer use. By way of analogy, they stated that while a claim for a ballpoint pen now would fail being neither novel nor obvious, it would still be a claim for a manner of manufacture.

I believe that this supports the idea that a general purpose computer programmed in accordance with new computer software is a manner of manufacture, irrespective of how commonplace the general purpose computer was before the new computer software.  Some recent decisions do not take this view.

It is instructive to note that computing machine features are incorporated at many positions within the main claim of the patent specification, unlike the main claim in IBM. The computing machine features are underlined in claim 1 reproduced below:

Computer processing apparatus for assembling text in Chinese language characters, said computer processing
apparatus including:-
a memory including character stroke data storage means which stores data relevant to Chinese character stroke-type categories, Chinese characters and the order in which character strokes of respective Chinese characters are written and complementary graphic data storage means from which data relevant to the graphic
representations of each said Chinese character may be retrieved;
display means for displaying Chinese language characters retrieved from said graphic data storage means;
a keyboard having a plurality of input entry keys including character stroke-type category entry keys designated by indicating means indicative of respective ones of said Chinese character stroke-type categories and selection means for selecting one of a plurality of characters displayed by said display
means; and
wherein said character stroke data storage means are searched by entering through said input entry keys search criteria including the entered Chinese character stroke-type categories and the order in which the character stroke-type categories are entered through said input entry keys, whereby upon entry of said search criteria the graphic representation of the or each Chinese character which meet said search criteria are retrieved from the corresponding graphic data storage means and displayed by said display means; and
said selection means being operable to select one of said retrieved graphic representations of Chinese characters whereby text in Chinese language characters may be assembled.