British Petroleum's Application (1968) 38 AOJP 1020

Posted by Anton Hughes on Sunday, July 03, 2005 with No comments
At 1020: The specification does not contain any mechanical or electronic details of the construction of a computer. ... Similarly, the specification does not contain any description of any new programming device.
The invention described in the specification is, consequently, not a computer since it can be utilised with any kind of computer. It is not a programming medium as such, since any programming medium will do. ... It is therefore concerned with a new way of solving a specified group of mathematical problems or with a new way of programming a computer to solve such problems.
It is obvious from the very definition of 'invention' that a new way of solving mathematical problems is not patentable, no matter how meritorious or ingenious the new solution may be. The same may be said if the solving of problems is to be carried out with the aid of a digital computer. Even in the broader field of programming generally, as distinct from linear programming, the programme must be regarded as being in an advantageous manner and as such, is not patentable.
At 1021: But even if programming were to be considered as being 'a new manner of manufacture', it would still not come within the definition of invention given in the Act  because, as pointed out by Lloyd-Jacob J in Rolls-Royce Ltd's Application, (1963) RPC 251, at page 255:
It must additionally be borne in mind that, even where a manner of new manufacture is disclosed in a patent application, s.6 of the Statute of Monopolies excluded grants which are mischevious to the State by being generally inconvenient.
Computer programming is a relatively young art and, although many strategems and simplifications have been devised so far, a much greater number may be expected to be devised in the future. It would certainly be expected to be mischevious to the State and generally inconvenient if, after investing a million dollars in a computer, the owner were to find himself prevented from operating it efficiently, or in any other manner he may wish, or with any degree of privacy or secrecy he may desire.
It has accordingly been the practice of the Patent Office to refuse applications for patents where the invention consistent merely of a programme or working directions for a known computer.