There has been a lot of comment recently, including from us, about the increasing activity of financial institutions in Fintech innovation and increasing patent activity. A recent example is from Barclays as they try to protect innovation in account set up for contactless payments. Unfortunately for Barclays, the UK IPO decided that their application failed the tests for excluded subject-matter relating to computer programs and methods of doing business.
The invention aims to provide a solution to the problem of delays between a customer requesting a new mobile account and the time when the mobile account is ready and can be used to carry out payments. The Hearing Officer decided that the automatic creation of a new secured contactless payment account is a business problem and not a technical one and went on to state that “the automatic creation of a new mobile account/wallet is, in one aspect, merely a ‘better’ business method. In the contributions other aspect, i.e. the generation, transmission and use of data to define the account, this is just the action of one or more computer programs running on standard hardware. Thus after careful consideration I cannot identify any non-excluded technical contribution. … I find that the invention is excluded as a business method and a program for a computer as such.”
When looking at Fintech inventions at the UK IPO it is important to consider the problem that is being solved. If it can be argued that the issue being addressed is a technical one then the application has a greater chance of success. For Fintech inventions it is likely that the likelihood of grant is higher at the EPO but the challenge of identifying a technical problem still remains.