Welcome to the new version of the Patents Manual. Please note there are changes to the numbering and sequence of the chapters and pages in the manual. You are encouraged to take the time to explore and familiarise yourself with this new structure. Printed Matter

Date Published

Patentable and Non-Patentable Inventions

Any presentation of information characterised solely by the content of that information has traditionally been non-patentable. In Virginia-Carolina Chemical Corp's Application [1958] RPC 35, it was considered that the intellectual or visual content of a paper, film, or other medium related to the fine and not the useful arts. The court in Pitman's Application [1969] RPC 646 took a similar approach, in observing that any matter having a purely intellectual, literary or artistic connotation was not patentable.

See also Research Affiliates LLC v Commissioner of Patents (2014) FCAFC 150 and Commissioner of Patents v RPL Central Pty Ltd (2015) FCAFC 177.

The mere fact that physical apparatus may be involved in the presentation of information will not be sufficient to avoid the exclusion from patentability. Thus, the exclusion applies whether a claim is directed to:

  • the presentation of the information per se, for example by acoustical signals, spoken words, or visual display;

  • information recorded on a carrier, for example books characterised by their printed subject matter, gramophone records characterised by the musical piece recorded, an electronic medium characterised by the nucleotide or protein sequence data recorded thereon (see also Nucleic Acids and Genetic Information), or magnetic computer tapes characterised by the data or programs recorded (note, however, Computer Implemented Inventions - Schemes and Business Methods); and

  • processes and apparatus for presenting information, for example, indicators or recorders characterised by the information indicated or recorded.

The exclusion will not apply if the effect of the presentation of information is to provide a material advantage (in the sense of a practical utility) rather than being of a purely intellectual or visual character.

Note that where a question arises as to whether an invention relating to printed matter is a manner of manufacture, consideration should also be given to whether the invention meets the requirements for inventive step.


In Moore Business Forms Application [1979] AOJP 2521, a claim to a business form having printed transverse bars was allowed, since the bars served the material advantage of allowing the form to be printed with more lines of type per inch which were still as easy to read as prior forms having the usual number of lines of type per inch.

Other examples include:

  • Cooper's Application [1902] 19 RPC 53, in which one or more spaces was left across the printed page of a newspaper where the paper was to be folded, in order to enable the paper to be read when folded, was held to be patentable;
  • Fishburn's Application [1938] 57 RPC 345, in which an arrangement of printing upon a ticket was found to serve a technical purpose in that information was not lost when the ticket was torn;
  • Pitman's Application [1969] RPC 646, in which variations in the visual significance of printed characters, in order to assist in voice production by a recording machine or a human reader, were held to be patentable. In contrast, Nelson's Application [1980] RPC 173, relating to a medium carrying an instructional message in three parts, visual, verbal, and humorous, was found to be merely intellectual in nature.
  • Rhode's Application [1973] RPC 243, in which a vehicle speedometer adapted to show "impact speed" was found to be patentable; and
  • Ciba-Geigy AG (Durr's) Applications [1977] RPC 83, in which a claim to a conventional package containing a known product and characterised solely by the instructions on the package for using the product, was rejected. In contrast, in Organon Laboratories Limited's Application [1970] RPC 574, a claim was allowed to a package containing pills which were packed in a particular order together with directions for use.

Amended Reasons

Amended Reason Date Amended

Published for testing

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