Posts Tagged: "Patentability"

The Impact of the America Invents Act on the Definition of Prior Art

While the search for prior art won’t likely be impacted, the value of the prior art located will be dramatically impacted according to Ken Hattori, partner in the Washington, D.C. firm of Westerman, Hattori, Daniels & Adrian, LLP. “US patents with a foreign priority claim will become tremendously stronger as prior art,” says Hattori. “The subject matter disclosed in the US patent has an effectively filed date as priority date since the Hilmer doctrine is eliminated.” This is significant because “there will be no Section 112 requirement for the description of the subject matter disclosed in the foreign specification. Thus, the subject matter in a prior art US patent or application will go back to the foreign filing date as a reference.”

Broad Claims to Signals & Computer Program Products in EPO

The good news is that signal claims and broad claims to computer program products are obtainable in Europe. However, such claims are only grantable if the necessary language is present in the European application or the International application as filed, otherwise objection will arise under a.123(2) EPC. Further, the EPO rules on priority are strict, and if the necessary language is missing from the US provisional or utility application from which priority is claimed, then signal or unrestricted computer program product claims will not benefit from priority. It is at the time of US filing that the necessary language must be introduced, and in particular entry into the European regional phase is too late.

Remembering Nuijten and Comisky 5 Years Later

On Thursday, September 20, 2007, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued two decisions that provoked much debate, and which deserve to be remembered. The first case, In re Comiskey, seemed rather straight forward and certainly not earth shattering. In the other case of the day, In re Nuijten, the Federal Circuit determined that a propagating signal cannot be patented because it is does not qualify as patentable subject matter. Frankly, I think the ruling in Nuijten can be simply summarized by saying that Judges Gajarsa and Moore didn’t understand the technology. Thus, in baseball terminology, on September 20, 2007, the Federal Circuit went 1 for 2, which would put you on a sure path to enshrinement in Cooperstown, but is not what you would hope for when dealing with an area of patent law as fundamentally important as patentable subject matter.

RMail v. Amazon.com: Can Invalidity Based on 35 U.S.C. § 101 Be Properly Raised as a Defense in Litigation?*

As pointed out astutely by RMail is that the Supreme Court jurisprudence on patent-eligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101 have primarily involved ex parte prosecution appeals from the USPTO. There are only two instances involving patent litigation I’m aware of where the Supreme Court squarely determined patent-eligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101: the recent case of Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc. (ruling that the claimed method was patent-ineligible under the “law of nature” doctrine); and the 2001 case of Pioneer Hi-Bred International v. JEM AG Supply (which ruled that sexually reproduced plants qualified as either “manufactures” or “compositions of matter” under 35 U.S.C. § 101). But as RMail correctly observed, no one seems to have pointed out to the Supreme Court this important threshold issue of statutory construction, and statutory limitations on the powers of the federal courts. Accordingly, Prometheus does not bar this Court from issuing a correct ruling in the present adversarial context.

Business Methods (and Software) are Still Patentable!

For at least the past 15 years, the legal, technical and academic communities have been debating the patentability of business methods and software. Despite much negative press ink, talk, legislative activity and court opinions, the answer with respect to patent eligibility is still a resounding and categorical “yes.” That’s the easy part. What types of business methods and software exactly are patentable? That is the difficult question to answer.

AMP v. USPTO Remand: Déjà Vu as Federal Circuit Majority Reaffirms Myriad’s Isolated DNA Sequences Are Patent-Eligible*

The other point that also bears repeating (and quoting) from the majority opinion in the AMP remand is Judge Lourie’s response to the so-called “preemption” question: “Plaintiffs argue here that they are preempted from using the patented DNA molecules. The answer to that concern is that permitting patents on isolated genes does not preempt a law of nature. A composition of matter is not a law of nature. Moreover, as indicated earlier, a limited preemption is inherent in every patent: the right to exclude for a limited period of time.”

UK Perspective: Bancorp Services v. Sun Life Assurance

The EPO applies what might be referred to as a “subtraction” test for claims containing a mixture of patent-eligible and patent-ineligible features, those features that are patent-ineligible being disregarded and novelty and obviousness under aa. 54 and 56 EPC being evaluated on the basis of the remaining features. Judge Lourie suggested a somewhat similar “subtraction” test here.

Bancorp Services: Further Fracturing of the Patent Eligibility Landscape for Business Methods and Systems*

In holding the method, system, and media claims of the ‘792 and ‘037 patents to “cover no more than abstract ideas and therefore do no recite patent-eligible subject matter,” Judge Lourie’s opinion trivializes the relevance of computer implementation in these claims. That’s brought out when he later says that the “interchangeability of certain mental processes and basic digital computation” makes the “use of a computer in an otherwise patent-ineligible process for no more than its most basic function” (i.e., making calculations or computations) inadequate “to circumvent the prohibition against patenting abstract ideas and mental processes.” In fact, Judge Lourie went even further by saying that “a computer must be integral to the claimed invention, facilitating the process in a way that a person making calculations or computations could not” to “salvage an otherwise patent-ineligible process,” citing the 2010 case of SiRF Technology, Inc. v. ITC (method for calculating the position of a GPS receiver satisfied the MOT test). In other words, computer implementation of the claimed business method (or system) must be absolutely necessary to its usefulness to satisfy Judge Lourie’s criteria for reaching the patent-eligibility zone.

The U.S. Government’s Position in ACLU v. Myriad Genetics: Observations on a ‘Waste of Time and Space’

So maybe the Federal Circuit won’t find “preemption” to be useful in deciding this appeal; we’ll know soon enough. I, for one, can’t make sense of the DOJ’s fixation on “tying up.” In Flook, the Supreme Court made clear that a claim’s patent-eligibility does not turn on the range of uses that are preempted versus those that remain in the public domain. Even in Mayo, the Supreme Court discussed preemption explicitly only as an underlying policy concern, as a justification for an outcome that, to the Court, seemed right and just – not as a test that distinguishes a “law of nature” from a man-made process. By elevating “tying up” to the status of an actual analytical tool, DOJ proposes an unworkable test that fails to distinguish “products of nature” from man-made inventions and leads to absurd outcomes. It asks the Federal Circuit to rely on asserted facts and unstated claim constructions. It requires strained interpretations of leading precedent. It is evasive and avoids the hard work of construing the claims and applying them to the activities believed to be “tied up” – lawyer work that, if undertaken, may or may not show that the preemptive scope of these claims isn’t all it’s trumped up to be.

CLS Bank International: A Fractured Landscape of Patent Eligibility for Business Methods and Systems*

These polar opposite decisions in CyberSource and Ultramercial illustrate how fractured the Federal Circuit’s patent-eligibility landscape has now become for business methods and systems. The most recent split decision in CLS Bank International v. Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. where a claimed trading platform for exchanging business obligations survived a validity challenge under 35 U.S.C. § 101 epitomizes this problem. As CLS Bank International unfortunately shows, an objective standard for judging the patent-eligibility of business methods and systems remains elusive, subject to an ever growing “tug-of-war” between the “inclusive” and “restrictive” patent-eligibility factions of the Federal Circuit. In particular, after CLS Bank International, we are no closer to having a judicially accepted definition of what is (or is not) an “abstract idea” when it comes to claiming business methods and systems.

Understanding Obviousness: John Deere and the Basics

When approaching an obviousness determination it is essential to understand what makes the invention unique. It is also necessary to start to envision the arguments that can be made to distinguish the invention over the totality of the prior art. This is required because when a patent examiner deals with issues of obviousness they will look at a variety of references and pull one element from one reference and another element of the invention from another reference. Ultimately the patent examiner will see if they can find all the pieces, parts and functionality of the invention in the prior art, and indicating that a combination of the prior art references discloses your invention. There is more to it than just finding every piece and part, because on some level all inventions are made up of known pieces, parts and functionality. The true inquiry is to determine whether the combination of the pieces, parts and functionality found within the applicable technology field of the invention would be considered to be within the “common sense” of one of skill in the art such that the invention is merely a trivial rearrangement of what is already known to exist.

Patentability Overview: Obviousness and Adequate Description

In a nutshell, an invention would be obvious when someone knowledgable about the area would look at your invention and consider it to be already known; not exactly but rather known if one were to combine several references. In other words, the predictable and non-unique combination of what multiple references teach would yield your invention. The prototypical example is when you have invented A+B. A is known in the prior art, and B is known in the prior art. Upon looking at A and then looking at B, would someone of skill in the art consider A+B to be already known? If the answer is yes, then A+B is obvious. If the answer is no, then A+B is not obvious.

Patentability Overview: When can an Invention be Patented?

Unfortunately, the patentability requirements are frequently misunderstood, including by the United States Supreme Court. For many who are not well versed in patent law one of the reasons it can be confusing when considering patentability is due to the fact that the first of the patentability requirements asks whether the invention exhibits patentable subject matter. This is sometimes phrased in terms of patent eligibility, which leads the many anti-patent zealots and other patent neophytes to erroneously conclude that if an invention is patent eligible then a patent issues. Nothing could be further from the truth, but those who hate the patent system aren’t exactly concerned with facts or reality. So what is required for an invention to be patented?

A Guide to Limiting the Damage Done by the Supremes in Mayo

Now the Patent Office and the courts have the unenviable task of trying to figure out what the Supreme Court really meant in Mayo v. Prometheus. If Diehr remains good law, which it clearly does, and Mayo v. Prometheus is good law, which it has to be as the last pronouncement, then it becomes clear that the proper statutory analysis is to go step by step through the statute analyzing patentability under the separate and distinct patentability requirements of 101, 102, 103 and 112. That is unless there is something that allows for the short-circuiting of the appropriate analysis as in Mayo v. Prometheus. What is that something?

Divining What Mayo Means: Exploring the SmartGene Case*

Trying to divine what Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc. means for the future in judging the patent-eligibility of claimed methods and processes under 35 U.S.C. § 101 is like using a Ouija board. The first inkling came 10 days after Mayo Collaborative Services in a motion for partial summary judgment in SmartGene, Inc. v. Advanced Biological Laboratories, SA, a case from the District Court of Columbia. When I first read this case, my initial reaction was “oh no, here comes the collateral damage we feared would come from Mayo Collaborative Services.” But having reflected on this case some more, and especially the claims involved, I think Judge Howell’s ultimate conclusion of patent-ineligibility of the claimed process and system under 35 U.S.C. § 101 is defendable. Even so, the reasoning expressed in Judge Howell’s opinion for reaching that conclusion gives pause for concern about the impact of Mayo Collaborative Services on rendering consistent and objective determinations of patent-eligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101.