Software Patents are Only as Dead as Schrödinger’s Cat
The environment for patent applicants and examiners that has resulted from such inconsistent treatment of Alice by the USPTO is one in which neither examiners nor applicants have clear guidance about how the USPTO is interpreting and intends to apply the Alice decision. This makes it difficult for examiners to know whether and how to issue Alice-based rejections, and for applicants to know how to respond to such rejections. In this environment, software patents are not dead; instead, they are, like Schrödinger’s cat, in an indeterminate state, simultaneously dead and alive until examined by an observer. In this case, the uncertainty over the impact of Alice on patent prosecution will only be dispelled when the USPTO analyzes the Alice opinion thoroughly and announces the Office’s interpretation of that opinion with a clear and unified voice. At that point, inventors, business owners, patent prosecutors, and patent examiners will be able to return to playing their respective roles within a rational patent system in which all parties involved seek to promote innovation according to fair, clear, and consistently-applied rules.