Bonum Certa Men Certa

As Expected, Director Iancu Tries to Water Down the Examiners' Guidance in Revised Patent Subject Matter Eligibility Document

...And patent maximalists are delirious, never mind if this merely widens the gap between caselaw (courts) and examination practice

Blind Leading the Blind
Blind Leading the Blind



Summary: In defiance of courts' rejection of software patents, the Trump-appointed Director (whose firm had worked for Trump before the appointment) metaphorically sticks up his middle finger and ignores judges; the main casualty, however, will be legal certainty and the perception of patent justice

THIS year we are reducing our volume/frequency of coverage regarding the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). As we explained before, software patents are more or less dying in the US not because of the Office but because of the courts. The signs are everywhere and not even patent maximalists are denying it (not anymore; they did in past years). Nutter McClennen & Fish LLP's Todd Gerety, for example, has just published this article that says: "Over the years, patents have issued on numerous games, including iconic favorites such as Monopoly€® (1935), Battleship€® (1935), Rubik’s Cube€® (1983), Rock'em Sock'em Robots€® (1966), Twister€® (1969), and Simon€® (1979). Although there is no per se rule under current U.S. patent law against the patenting of games, it may be more challenging today to obtain patents on certain games due to the patent eligibility requirements of 35 U.S.C. €§ 101.

"For example, the Federal Circuit recently affirmed a final decision of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“Board”) holding a claimed method of playing a dice game using dice having non-conventional markings to be patent ineligible under 35 U.S.C. €§ 101. See In Re: Marco Guldenaar Holding B.V. (Fed. Cir. 2018). Specifically, the court agreed with the Board that the claimed method recites the abstract idea of “rules for playing a game” and lacked an inventive concept sufficient to transform the claim into patent eligible subject matter."

Obviously, as anyone can tell, patents on computer games are just software patents that should never have been granted in the first place. Games are a kind of software.

"So the Trump "swamp" is trying to defy court rulings and bring back software patents rebranded as “computer-implemented inventions”."The Office, however, not to be mistaken for actual courts, doesn't seem to care. The number of new patents declined last year (but it's still far too high) and judging by Patently-O's assessment of the government shutdown, we might expect that number to decline further this year. "Once funds run out, the PTO is looking for ways to keep the doors open enough to continue to accept new application filings — while shutting down examination and PTAB activities," Dennis Crouch wrote. "It is likely that a special PTO funding bill would receive bipartisan support — keeping the patent office rolling while other government services are shut-down."

But no such bill exists yet. In another new post Crouch alluded to the new guidelines or a set of rules that does not impact courts, only examiners. Watchtroll wrote about it too, as did various patent maximalists in Twitter. "The USPTO has finally released the Revised Patent Subject Matter Eligibility Guidance (Section 101 Guidance)," one wrote. "USPTO 2019 Revised Patent Subject Matter Eligibility Guidance” makes two primary changes to how patent examiners apply the first step of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Alice/Mayo test, which determines whether a claim is “directed to” a judicial exception," said another.

So the Trump "swamp" is trying to defy court rulings and bring back software patents rebranded as "computer-implemented inventions". So what? The courts won't care; they'll keep rejecting such patents, only to reduce confidence in US patents (lowering legal certainty). So what is being achieve here? The United States Patent and Trademark Office has just issued a fake/dubious patent again. Why does it issue patents on abstract ideas? We still see plenty of new examples every day, but we won't mention them all because we want to reduce focus on this subject (so as to save time).

Michael Loney, another patent maximalist, wrote about what he called "2019 Revised Patent Subject Matter Eligibility Guidance" as follows:

The guidance makes two primary changes to how patent examiners apply the Section 101 test, while the USPTO also announced guidance for the applying Section 112 to computer-implemented inventions

The USPTO has announced revised guidance for subject matter eligibility under Section 101. The Office also announced guidance on the application of Section 112 to computer-implemented inventions.


Loney soon proceeded to promoting software patents agenda in a site of patent extremists and predators:

New USPTO guidance makes two primary changes to how patent examiners apply the Section 101 test, while guidance for applying Section 112 to computer-implemented inventions was also announced

The USPTO has announced revised guidance for subject matter eligibility under Section 101. The Office also announced guidance on the application of Section 112 to computer-implemented inventions.


Patent Docs has not yet commented on this; it did, however, post 5 adverts last night, including this one which includes: "What steps should patent counsel take to minimize the likelihood of ۤ 101 rejections?"

At the Office or the courts? The matter of fact is, one can still get software patents from the Office (maybe more easily now than before, thanks to the biases of Iancu), but courts are tougher than ever on such patents. In fact, they now deal with some of the 'better' software patents (because litigation rates have collapsed), yet the success/failure ratio remains steady.

Keep on promoting software patents, Mr. Iancu, at the expense of the credibility of the Office Donald Trump put you in charge of.

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