The ongoing row related to software patenting has finally reached the European Patent Office (EPO) Enlarged body of Appeal which incidentally is the highest appeals body in the EPO.
The move to refer the contentious issue is seen as an attempt to receive a clear advice on the legality of patentability of software and is also directed at ensuring the uniform applicability of European Patent Convention (EPC).
An statement issued by the EPO explained the move by mentioning "It is hoped that the answers to these questions will lead to greater clarity concerning the limits of patentability, thereby facilitating application of the EPC by patent examiners and enabling both applicants and the wider public to understand the law regarding the patentability of programs for computers"
The EPO has the powers to grant patents; however these patents need to be confirmed by national patent authority in respective countries which an applicant wants the patent to take effect.
It is interesting to note that countries which sign up with the EPC framework essentially structure their patent laws around it yet they still differ in their interpretation.