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Posts Tagged: "35 USC 101"

Tillis, Michel, and Kappos File Amici Curiae in American Axle at Supreme Court

On Monday,, March 2, an Amici Curiae Brief in Support of the Petition by American Axle was filed by Senator Thom Tillis, Honorable Paul Michel and Honorable David Kappos. The three amici conclude that they are “all convinced that section 101 is gravely damaging our country’s ability to succeed in the race for global innovation leadership, and all convinced that the solution to the dilemma lies with the Court taking up the American Axle case.”

Flaws in the Supreme Court’s §101 Precedent and Available Ways to Correct Them

Amid the crush of patent-eligibility case law, see 35 U.S.C. §101, patent lawyers and even courts can lose sight of the key principles and precedents that serve as the foundation of the eligibility analysis. Or they may not have appreciated in the first place the underlying bases for these §101 cases and whether, for example, those cases accord with precedents they cite from decades before. In any event, this article addresses these foundational Supreme Court precedents for §101 and the Mayo-Alice ineligibility regime that dominates the patent landscape today. In particular, we trace the Court’s precedents from nearly 50 years ago, with an emphasis on key cases separated by some 30 years but tied together by the Court’s representation that it has faithfully followed (and not overruled) any such precedent. After analyzing the precedent in this light, with due emphasis on the Supreme Court’s decisions in Diamond v. Diehr, 450 U.S. 175 (1981) and Mayo Collaborative Servs. v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc., 132 S.Ct. 1289 (2012), the article briefly examines the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s 2019 Patent Eligibility Guidance on §101—the Article II branch’s response to the §101 sea change wrought by the Article III courts. Finally, based on these authorities, the article offers a mix of points and observations for patent litigators and judges to consider as they continue to shape §101’s eligibility law.

The ‘Iancu Effect’ Won’t Matter if Not Supported by the Courts or Congress

The Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC) of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce issued its annual International IP Index ranking the intellectual property environments in 50 of the most important economies. The 2018 edition saw the United States rank #1 overall for intellectual property, as the top jurisdiction in the world broadly speaking for intellectual property protection. The 2019 edition, released February 7, 2019, again saw the U.S. maintain its dominance as the top jurisdiction in the world for intellectual property protection as a whole. In 2018, however, the U.S. sank to twelfth place in the Chamber rankings relative to patent protections. In 2019, the U.S. rose to a tie for second place. This is certainly welcome news, but it is worth mentioning that the historic lead the U.S. had as the top patent jurisdiction in the world since the early 1980s has largely been forfeited over the last decade. There is great optimism among patent owners and innovators that things are changing and will continue to improve at the USPTO under Director Iancu’s guidance. The question that remains for patent industry observers is whether the Federal Circuit will ultimately agree with what Director Iancu is doing in order to implement predictability.

IBM Calls for an End to the ‘Legal Fiction’ of Current 101 Law

This marks the final installment in my four-part interview with IBM’s Vice President and Assistant General Counsel Mark Ringes and Chief Patent Counsel Manny Schecter. I found our conversation fascinating and want to thank them both again for their time and insight. Below, we conclude with an in-depth discussion on how the U.S. patent system is affecting startups and the state of enforceability following Director Iancu’s Section 101 Guidance.

IBM: Software Patent Exceptions Make No Sense in a World Where “Software is Ubiquitous”

In Part I of my recent interview with IBM, I spoke with Mark Ringes, IBM Vice President and Assistant General Counsel, and Manny Schecter, Chief Patent Counsel, about the company’s commitment to innovation and approach to patenting. Our conversation took place at the IBM offices on Madison Avenue in New York City and touched on topics ranging from Section 101 to startups to the USPTO. Below, the conversation continues with an in-depth discussion of Section 101 law, software patents, and how the Federal Circuit and Supreme Court have contributed to the situation in which we find ourselves today.

Is 2019 the Year Clarity Returns to Section 101? Judge Paul Michel Is Hopeful

For almost ten years, U.S. patent law has experienced extraordinary confusion and uncertainty about what types of inventions and discoveries are patent eligible. The U.S. system changed from offering strong protection for novel and nonobvious inventions to questioning whether groundbreaking technologies are even the type the Founders thought would promote the progress of the “Useful Arts.” But recent developments, including the USPTO’s 2019 Revised Patent Subject Matter Eligibility Guidance (Section 101 Guidance), suggest that winds of change may clear the fog and bring back some clarity to U.S. patent law.

Conclusory Legal Opinions of Patentee’s Expert Not Enough to Prevent 12(b)(6) Dismissal

Several weeks ago, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a nonprecedential decision in Glasswall Solutions Limited v. Clearswift Ltd., affirming a district court’s findings that claims from two patents that were asserted in an infringement case filed by Glasswall were directed to unpatentable subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101… The Federal Circuit found that testimony offered by an expert witness for Glasswall didn’t preclude a dismissal on the pleadings as the alleged factual assertions in that testimony weren’t actually factual in nature but, rather, were conclusory legal arguments the district court wasn’t bound to accept as true.

Sherry Knowles Scrutinizes an Activist Supreme Court and its Unconstitutional Approach to Patent Eligibility

The Supreme Court has brazenly admitted it is not following Congress’ statutory instructions on patent eligibility in several cases. And it has carried out virtually none of the required statutory construction. It is judicial activism in the extreme… [I]t is hard to imagine a more unconstitutional statement than that discoveries cannot be patented when the statute the Court is applying states that any invention or discovery can be patented.

PTAB Grants Additional Briefing to Consider the Impact of USPTO’s Revised 101 Guidance

The PTAB not only assented to Mirror Imaging’s suggestion that a five-page brief be entered in advance of the hearing but added that parties may submit one brief for each of the four CBM review proceedings which were petitioned by Fidelity… This could be a pivotal moment in the history of the PTAB specifically, and the USPTO more generally. If Director Iancu can achieve the goal of having the Patent Office speak with one voice, with patent examiners and the PTAB all following the same law and guidance, he will have achieved a united Patent Office that has been elusive, but desperately needed.

A New Court and a New Fix for Alice and Patent Eligibility under Section 101

In Henry Schein, Inc. v. Archer & White Sales, Inc., Case No. 17-1272, Justice Brett Kavanaugh authored an opinion applying a statutory construction principle to the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) that may foreshadow how the new Court, applying the same principle, will dramatically reshape how federal courts must approach patent eligible subject matter challenges by eliminating the judicial exceptions—abstract ideas, laws of nature and natural phenomenon—and thus moot the debate that has followed (and preceded) the Court’s Alice decision. Does Henry Schein, reflecting a unanimous Court’s interpretation of a statute, reflect a shift to now interpreting statutes such that exceptions not found in the text cannot be applied? Certainly, such an argument can be made that the three judicial exceptions to patent eligibility, which courts at all levels throughout the land have struggled over since their inception and which nowhere appear in the text of the Patent Act, could be found, unanimously, inapplicable at the Court’s next review of the issue.

In CAFC Holding Finding Dice Games Abstract, Judge Mayer Delivers Concerning Concurrence

On December 28, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued an opinion in In re Marco Guldenaar Holding B.V. (2017-2465) in which the claims of a patent application directed to a dice game were held to be patent-ineligible for being directed to an abstract idea, with “the only arguable inventive concept relat[ing] to dice markings, which constitute printed matter.” The holding in the case is unsurprising post-Alice, but Judge Mayer’s concurrence reveals some concerning views on patent eligibility. The concurrence concludes by alleging that “Alice, for all intents and purposes, articulated a ‘technological arts’ test for patent eligibility.” The statute certainly does not hint at the sort of “technological arts” test that Judge Mayer would prefer and that Alice itself never required, despite Judge Mayer purportedly being concerned with precedent.

Federal Circuit Relies on Printed Matter Doctrine in Affirming Examiner’s Rejection of Claims Under 35 U.S.C. § 101

The examiner concluded the claims were directed to the abstract idea of rules for playing a game, which fell within the realm of methods of organizing human activities. The examiner further found the claims were unpatentable as obviousness over old and well known to dice games, applying the printed matter doctrine… Marco also contended that its claimed method of playing a dice game could not be an abstract idea because it recites a physical game with physical steps. The Court rejected this argument “because the abstract idea exception does not turn solely on whether the claimed invention comprises physical versus mental steps.” Since the only arguably unconventional aspect of the recited method of playing a dice game was found to be printed matter, thus falling outside the scope of § 101, the rejected claims did not recite an “inventive concept” sufficient to “transform” the claimed subject matter into a patent-eligible application of the abstract idea.

Software Patent Drafting Lessons from the Key Lighthouse Cases

Obtaining a U.S. software patent is still harder than it was five years ago, but studying these “lighthouse” cases can improve one’s chances of success. While the Federal Circuit’s decision in Berkheimer v. HP Inc., 881 F.3d 1360 (Fed. Cir. 2018) and the USPTO’s guidance to patent examiners on the Berkheimer decision have recently improved the landscape for software patents, the following cases contain critical lessons for drafters that can further ensure claims are patent eligible.

Don’t Dismiss State Street: Ancora Decision Reiterates Relevance of Concrete and Tangible Test for Software

Judge Rich was attempting to articulate a test that would allow the decision maker to determine whether there is in fact an innovation; an invention that we recognize as one that can and should be patented if it is in fact novel and nonobvious. So, the key to the “useful, concrete and tangible result” test of State Street is the “concrete and tangible” part of the test. That part of the test must be referring to whether an invention has been articulated sufficiently so that if it is novel and nonobvious a patent could be appropriately awarded. This explanation of the State Street test would be in accord with both the Supreme Court’s decision in Bilski, as well as in Alice v. CLS Bank, as well as the Federal Circuit’s precedential decisions in which the Court discusses the need for an inventive concept under Alice/Mayo Step 2B, and particularly the Ancora Technologies, Inc. decision.

Revised Patent Eligibility Guidance Effectively Defines What is an Abstract Idea

In essence, by narrowly identifying certain subject matter groups as being those that properly qualify for characterization as abstract ideas the USPTO is effectively defining what is and what is not an abstract idea, thereby filling a void intentionally left ambiguous by both the Supreme Court and the Federal Circuit. It has been frustrating — to say the least — that courts have refused to define the term abstract idea despite that being the critical term in the Supreme Court’s extra-statutory patent eligibility test. Without a definition for the term abstract idea rulings have been nothing short of subjective; some would even say arbitrary and capricious.