Posts Tagged: "patentable subject matter"

How Misaligned Incentives Are Now Killing Us

Today, like so much of the rest of the world, the United States is faced with many shortages due to the coronavirus pandemic, including personal protective equipment, basic medical supplies, and qualified medical staff. Of course, the lack of treatments or vaccine is a huge problem. Another secular problem is the lack of a quick, inexpensive, reliable test for the virus. But a test for the virus is a diagnostic method, and that is a big problem for U.S. patent laws because diagnostic methods are simply not patent eligible in the United States. This is also a big problem for the world because ever since the veil of patent eligibility was lifted for the life sciences sector in 1981 by the U.S. Supreme Court in Diamond v. Chakrabarty, the U.S. has dominated the biotechnology sector, specifically, and life science sectors more generally speaking. In 1981, the Supreme Court opened the floodgates saying that what was created by man could be patented, and if it could be owned it could be invested in, and investors rushed in and the biotechnology industry that we know today was born. But what the Supreme Court gave they can, and ultimately did, take away.

Time to Wake Up: Stakeholders Must Compromise to Save the U.S. Patent System

Things are bad for many innovators and there is little hope for improvement on the foreseeable horizon. Despite the best efforts of Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), efforts to reform America’s patent system for the better have stalled to the point that the Senate IP Subcommittee is moving on from patent matters and will focus on copyright reform throughout 2020. “Given the reasonable concerns that have been expressed about the draft as well as the practical realities of the difficulty of passing legislation, absent stakeholder consensus I don’t see a path forward for producing a bill—much less steering it to passage—in this Congress,” Senator Tillis told the Intellectual Property Owners Association in an interview published earlier today. Sources tell IPWatchdog that it is not inconceivable that the Subcommittee will steer back toward patent issues – namely patent eligibility reform – but disagreement among the interested constituencies has shelved any hope for patent eligibility reform. Shockingly, the disagreement that has shelved the long-awaited legislative fix for 35 U.S.C. 101 is among those who support reform. It seems the various constituencies that want 101 reform have their own demands and – if you can believe it – would prefer no change to a change that doesn’t give them 100% of what they are seeking.

Supreme Court Denies Trading Technologies, ChargePoint Petitions

The U.S. Supreme Court today denied two petitions for certiorari filed by Trading Technologies and one by ChargePoint, Inc. asking the Court to review their cases related to the patent eligibility of their inventions. Trading Technologies’ inventions relate to graphical user interface tools, while ChargePoint’s invention is for a vehicle charging station. The denials are not surprising following the High Court’s refusal to allow a number of other petitions dealing with Section 101 earlier this month, including Athena Diagnostics v. Mayo Collaborative Services and HP Inc. v. Berkheimer. Athena was thought to have the best chance of being granted, especially after the United States Office of the Solicitor General (SG) in December weighed in on the petition in Hikma Pharmaceuticals v. Vanda Pharmaceuticals, recommending against granting cert in that case in favor of hearing one like Athena instead.

How to Help Data Scientists Overcome Their Patent Doubts

When discussing patentable inventions with data scientists, I often hear them dismiss their inventions under arguments such as these: “We’re using the same tools as everyone else,” “Augmenting data for the training set is well known,” “A similar thing has been done for car-bumper design” (said by the designer of a churro-making machine), “Configuring the neural-network hyperparameters is trivial,” and worst of all, “It’s obvious.” Data scientists often believe that their accomplishments are not patentable, but in-depth exploration of their work often uncovers patentable ideas. I am referring to data scientists that use machine-learning (ML) tools to uncover intrinsic relationships within a large corpus of data. Other data scientists design and improve these ML tools, and their work may also result in patentable ideas, which is a topic for discussing another day.

The Supreme Court is More Interested in Being Right Than Shedding Light on 101

Yesterday was a dark day for patent eligibility in America. The United States Supreme Court denied certiorari in five more petitions relating to patent eligibility challenges. Based on our count, this brings the total number of patent eligibility petitions denied by the Supreme Court to at least 48, since the Court issued its controversial, if not catastrophic, decision in Alice Corporation vs. CLS Bank, 134 S.Ct. 2347 (2014). Obviously, the Supreme Court is perfectly comfortable with the status quo as it pertains to the law of patent eligibility. This reality evokes myriad emotions, ranging from despair to outrage to resentment to cynicism to exasperation and finally to a begrudging acceptance. Even with Justice Gorsuch hiring clerks with an intellectual property background – an extreme rarity at the Supreme Court – there seems to be no willingness or desire to clean up the mess this Court created when it ignored the doctrine of stare decisis, several generations of well-established law, and the 1952 Patent Act itself, which had been interpreted by the Supreme Court based on the explicit language of 35 U.S.C. 101 and the legislative history to make “anything under the sun that is made by man” patent eligible. Diamond v. Chakrabarty, 447 U.S. 303 (1980) (citing S. Rep. No. 1979, 82d Cong., 2d Sess., 5 (1952); H. R. Rep. No. 1923, 82d Cong., 2d Sess., 6 (1952)).

It’s Official: SCOTUS Will Not Unravel Section 101 Web

The Supreme Court this morning released its orders list, in which it denied all pending petitions for certiorari on cases concerning patent eligibility. The Court has now made it fully clear that it does not plan to wade back into the Section 101 debate, leaving it up to Congress to clarify the law. Thus—with an impeachment trial and presidential election looming this year—a quick 101 fix seems increasingly unlikely. The Court considered a number of petitions concerning Section 101 on Friday. Of them, Athena Diagnostics v. Mayo Collaborative Services was thought to have the best chance of being granted. In December, the United States Office of the Solicitor General (SG) weighed in on the petition in Hikma Pharmaceuticals v. Vanda Pharmaceuticals, recommending against granting cert in that case in favor of hearing one like Athena instead.

Five Years Later, the U.S. Patent System is Still Turning Gold to Lead

Five years after the last of the four decisions in patent eligibility doctrine by the Supreme Court—creating what is now referred to as the Alice-Mayo framework—the impact of this upheaval in the patent system has become even more clear. Ongoing court decisions and new data confirm that the Alice-Mayo framework has wrought an unsettling revolution and sowed uncertainty in what former U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director David Kappos has referred to as the “the greatest innovation engine the world has ever known.” As policy debates on subject matter eligibility ramped up this past year, it is time to return back to the original dataset created by Robert Sachs and David Kappos that we presented in Turning Gold to Lead and provide an update.

Athena Tells SCOTUS That Mayo’s Key Argument “Collapses” Under Federal Circuit Split

Athena Diagnostics today filed its reply brief to Mayo Collaborative Services at the Supreme Court in the closely-watched petition asking the High Court to clarify U.S. patent eligibility law. The reply reiterates the points made in Athena’s petition for certiorari and dismisses Mayo’s argument in November that “any further action regarding the patentability of medical diagnostic claims such as Athena’s that employ conventional, known techniques should and does rest with Congress.” The reply comes three days after the United States Solicitor General recommended that SCOTUS grant cert in Athena or “another such case”, rather than in Hikma Pharmaceuticals v. Vanda Pharmaceuticals.

Solicitor General Recommends Against Cert in Vanda, Perhaps Bolstering Athena’s Bid for Review

The United States Office of the Solicitor General has filed its brief in response to the Supreme Court’s March request for views in Hikma Pharmaceuticals v. Vanda Pharmaceuticals. The December 6 brief says that the Federal Circuit correctly held the relevant claims of Vanda’s patent-in-suit eligible, and that the case “is not an optimal vehicle for bringing greater clarity” on the topic of Section 101 law since the CAFC arrived at the correct result. Instead, the High Court should grant certiorari in a case like Athena Diagnostics v. Mayo Collaborative Services, in which the order denying en banc rehearing “was accompanied by multiple separate opinions articulating different understandings of Mayo and seeking clarification from this Court.”

No Justice for Small Company Innovators: Make Your Voice Heard on the America Invents Act, IPRs, and the CAFC’s Rule 36

My company, Chestnut Hill Sound Inc. (ChillSound), has been victimized by a U.S. patent system that for nearly a decade has been in a sorry state. Changes wrought by the America Invents Act (AIA) in 2011 and other recent developments cost my company, its investors and inventors millions of dollars. These changes have allowed a large company to reap great profits at our expense. Even more unfortunately, our story is too typical of many other inventors and small companies. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and need to be cultivated, as they are the most dynamic source of new jobs and competitive products and technologies. There have always been reports of large corporations stealing inventions from small businesses, but it used to be possible via the courts to vindicate the patent rights of owners and obtain ultimate redress.  The AIA—sold by the “efficient infringers” lobby as a measure to protect big business from the expense and nuisance of so-called “patent trolls”—has turned into a weapon of deep-pocketed big businesses that enables them to steal with impunity inventions from small businesses and independent inventors. The AIA brought with it the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) and Inter Partes Review (IPRs), a post-grant adversarial proceeding at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). As has been amply discussed here on IPWatchdog, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) recently opined that the so-called Administrative Patent Judges (APJs) were unconstitutionally appointed from the beginning. Yet these unconstitutionally appointed APJs continue to kill patents, especially when the patent owner is a small company that has sued a large company for infringement, as was the case with ChillSound.

How to Prepare and Prosecute Patents in Light of the USPTO’s Post-Alice Focus on Eligibility

Since the issuance by the United States Supreme Court of its opinion in Alice Corporation Pty Ltd. v. CLS Bank International, 573 U.S. 208, 134 S. Ct. 2347 (2014), the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has increased its focus on patent eligibility. As a consequence, patent applicants now receive more claim rejections under 35 U.S.C. § 101, leading to protracted prosecution. While rejections under 35 U.S.C. § 101 are likely unavoidable, patent attorneys and agents can take steps during application preparation and prosecution to minimize the likelihood of such rejections and to successfully rebut such rejections when they do arise.

Professors Expand Upon Proposals to Senate IP Subcommittee for Improving Patent Quality

On October 30, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Intellectual Property heard from five witnesses on ways to improve patent quality at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The Subcommittee subsequently posed questions to the witnesses, including professors Colleen Chien, R. Polk Wagner, and Melissa Wasserman, to supplement their testimony. Those witnesses have now submitted their responses, which expand upon their various suggestions for improving patent quality.

Federal Circuit Reverses District Court Finding that ‘Check Data’ Patent is Abstract

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC), in an opinion authored by Judge Chen, on Friday November 15 reversed a ruling of the District Court for the District of Delaware holding Koninklijke KPN N.V.’s (KPN’s) U.S. Patent No. 6,212,662 (the ‘662 patent) ineligible under Section 101. The patent covers a method that varies “check data” to reduce systematic errors in electronic transmissions. KPN sued Gemalto M2M GMBH (Gemalto) in the district court and Gemalto moved under Rule 12(c) for a judgment on the pleadings, arguing that claims 1-4 of the ‘662 patent were ineligible under 35 U.S.C § 101, which the district court granted. KPN appealed on claims 2-4, stating that they present “a non-abstract improvement in the functionality of an existing technological process and not simply an abstract idea of manipulating data.”

Lessons from an Independent Female Inventor: Today’s Patent Laws Preclude ‘SUCCESS’

It has been one year since my software patent was invalidated in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.  Now, this intellectual property is considered worthless and my dream of paying off extensive student loans with the proceeds from patent licensing fees are in the past. The irony being that if it were not for these extensive student loans, this invention, most likely, would not have come to into being. My patent No. 6,769,915, issued in 2003, was invalidated under Section 101 and struck down on appeal. The patent covers “a user-interactive behavior modification system” that is in competition with technology pursued by the companies including Nike, FitBit, Apple, and Samsung.  The rules that existed when I applied for this software patent in 2000 no longer guarantee myself and hundreds of other independent inventors the right to collect patent licensing fees. This right was granted to all with The Patent Act of 1790. Yet, over the last 15 years, the U.S. patent laws have been changed drastically by extremely well-financed lobbyists on behalf of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO’s) largest customers— global corporations, including the Big Tech industry. This has relieved Apple, Google, Facebook, etc. from the necessity of having to pay independent inventors software licensing fees. With this shift in intellectual property laws, the once small startups of Silicon Valley have become the large monopolies they are now.

The Final Plea for 101 Sanity? Athena Amici Ask Supreme Court to Clean Up U.S. Patent Eligibility Mess

November 1 was the deadline for filing amicus briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is considering whether to grant a petition for writ of certiorari to take up Athena Diagnostics v. Mayo Collaborative Services on appeal from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Almost every amicus filing to the Supreme Court in this case supported granting the petition or backed up the position of petitioner Athena, who is asking the Supreme Court to clarify its patent-eligibility doctrine under the Alice/Mayo framework on the subject of medical diagnostic patent claims. The appeal to the Supreme Court follows a hotly contested denial of an en banc rehearing of the Federal Circuit’s original panel decision in Athena, which produced eight opinions, including four dissents, with many judges agreeing that Athena’s invention should be patent eligible even while they disagreed over whether Supreme Court precedent allowed for patent protection of diagnostic methods.