09.02.15

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When Even Patent Lawyers’ Blogs Acknowledge the Rapid Demise of Software Patents

Posted in America, Patents at 12:48 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Manchester studies

Summary: Voices for patents are accepting the new order wherein software patents are hardly potent at all (and increasingly difficult to acquire)

TECHRIGHTS has chronicled the post-Alice aftermath and the demise of software patents in the United States for well over a year. We wrote about the subject dozens of times and gave examples of cases that demonstrate change, both at the courts (rulings against patents) and at the patent office (examination guidelines being tightened).

The USPTO‘s evolving guidelines for examiners are very much instructed by courts’ decisions. Each time a court invalidates a patent granted by the USPTO it serves to discredit the USPTO and decrease confidence in (or perceived worth of) USPTO patents. According to this interesting new post from a pro-patents blog, the “USPTO provides the following data on petitions challenging examiner decisions:

– the average decision time on petitions challenging a final Restriction Requirement is 91 days, with a 47% grant rate.

– the average decision time on petitions challenging the finality of a rejection is 46 days, with a 39% grant rate.

There are many more statistics there, based on petitioners’ data. Even more interesting, however, was this other pro-patents blog. Usually patent lawyers are denying the magnitude and weight of the Alice case, but this one admits the harsh reality (for patent lawyers):

Courts Everywhere are Finding Software Patents Invalid, So What Next?

[...]

The Supreme Court’s June 2014 ruling in Alice v. CLS Bank calls into question the eligibility for patent protection of these issued utility patents on computer software, and is a barrier to future applications on computer software. Alice and its progeny compel software developers to look beyond patents to protect their intellectual property. What are these alternatives? When and how can they be used?

In Alice, the Supreme Court found that an issued patent protecting high frequency trading software was invalid because it was directed to patent ineligible subject matter. Unfortunately, the Court provided little or no direction as to how to determine patent ineligibility. The Court said that a “patent-ineligible concept” is “an abstract idea.” So the natural next question must be: What is an abstract idea? The Court defined “an abstract idea” as “[a]n idea of itself,” or one that is “a fundamental truth.”

With the issued patent challenged in Alice, the Court used this definition to deem them directed to an “abstract idea” and therefore patent ineligible. But the Court did not explain how the patented claims were “drawn to the abstract idea of intermediated settlement” in the high frequency trading software realm. The Court did not pinpoint what fundamental truth the patents purported to protect such that they were ineligible.

We are gratified to see that people no other than the pro-patents crowd are coming to grips with the demise of software patents, even in the United States.

The threat of software patents in Europe persists, however, due to gross abuse by EPO management and other autocrats. “Software [is] not patentable in France,” wrote the President of the FFII today, “but French courts will be replaced by biased Unitary patent courts” (as covered here before).

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