03.30.16

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Hope at the End of the Tunnel as More Software Patents Are Squashed in the US

Posted in America, Europe, Patents at 5:41 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Where there’s light there may be justice (unlike at the USPTO, where profit trumps justice)

Hope at the End

Summary: A roundup of patent news regarding software in particular, with concerns about quality control both at the USPTO and the EPO

BEGRUDGINGLY but inevitably the USPTO will need to realign as per the SCOTUS‘ rulings and stop issuing abstract patents on software methods. This is definitely going to upset a lot of patent lawyers, but it’s not them who set the rules (they’re not objective as they have their own motivations, usually just money, not science). Gene Quinn has just gone bonkers again. He wants examiners in patent offices to be replaced (almost) by just a filing system and based on today’s IAM-hosted words of 'wisdom', the EPO may be sinking to Turkish patent standards, or looking for middle ground where there’s a “post-grant opposition system” (grant first, ask questions or sort out the mess later).

“What we have in common here is declining quality control at patent offices.”Based on this new article by Jakob Pade Frederiksen at MIP, the EPO’s “Appeal Board condemns examination delay” (that’s the headline). How about more than 12 years? Consider the following paragraph: “While the recently released EPO performance statistics for 2015 show an increase in the number of grants compared to the previous year and a decrease of backlog of searches by two thirds, delay in examination of pending cases is still of concern to some. A recent appeal decision rendered in the field of computer implemented inventions reveals that excessive examination delays do not amuse the Boards of Appeal. More specifically, in decision T 823/11 rendered in December 2015, Board 3.5.07 has ruled that duration of examination proceedings of more than 12 years must be regarded as excessive and amounts to a substantial procedural violation.”

What we have in common here is declining quality control at patent offices. It’s all about the money! And whose? But at the same time the courts compel the offices to admit their errors. Let’s look at some recent court cases. 2 days ago we mentioned Sequenom, which we had also mentioned last year and in 2014. Sequenom, based on this new report (“Sequenom Asks the Supreme Court to Clarify the Limits on Section 101″), is freaking out after SCOTUS eliminated many abstract patents. Based on this patent lawyer, on the other hand, “US Pat 8,180,858, Survived 101/Alice Attack in Delaware” (words like “Survive” and “Attack” make it sounds like “Alice” is a ruthless warrior rather than SCOTUS fixing patent law). “Prior Stats Were 8/10 Alice Kills,” notes the same patent lawyer, still associating software patents that got invalidated (because they’re bogus) with death. To quote the thing in full: “J. robinson of Dist. Ct. of Delaware Rejected 101/Alice Arguments in 4 decisions issued in past week; Prior Stats Were 8/10 Alice Kills” (meaning, the large majority of them are invalided by Alice when properly challenged in a court of law). One software patent can do a lot of damage in the United States; that is what I told this lawyer regarding this tweet (“US Pat 6,928,433, Apple Paid $100M for Infringing; Asserted Against 7 Others”) as it reminded me of other such Apple cases (the patent owner/assignee is Canadian in this case, just like i4i). All in all, wrote this lawyer, “11% of Patent Reexams Appealed to Beijing IP Ct. Were Reversed; 11% of PTAB Decisions Appealed to Fed. Cir. Have Been Reversed.” We actually consider this patent lawyer to be a “good guy” because he is quite honest and looks at the breadth of things, unlike people who read or write IAM ‘magazine’.

“The USPTO wants no legal challenges because hey, who needs quality control anyway?”In other news of interest, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) has just demolished a gaming patent based on the aforementioned criterion. To quote a lawyers’ site: “Under 35 U.S.C. § 101, patent-eligible subject matter is defined as any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, with the caveat that laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas are not patent eligible. The purpose of the exceptions is to prevent patents from preventing access to “the basic tools of scientific and technological work.” The examiner rejected the claims as directed to patent-ineligible subject matter under 35 USC § 101, taking the position that the claims were directed to an abstract idea as the claims attempted “to claim a new set of rules for playing a card game.””

On the other hand, or by contrast, “Computer Modeling Breast Prosthesis Survives 12(b)(6) § 101 Challenge,” said another site, also one that’s in the patent maximalism fold. Speaking of this fold, Lexology has just reposted two articles that we mentioned here some days ago [1, 2]. They amplify the patent maximalists’ messages (usually patent attorneys). Patently-O has been relatively quiet over Easter, but yesterday we found this update about the USPTO, where patent maximalism is embedded because of profit motives. To quote Patently-O: “The U.S. Government has also filed its responsive merits brief. The brief appears to be a joint effort of the Solicitor General (DOJ) and the USPTO and does a solid job of justifying its positions [...] The PTO is looking for a strong decision in this case to effectively shut-down the myriad challenges it is currently facing.”

“They tell us it’s good because “R&D” or something along those lines, neglecting to point out that a lot of Merck’s funding actually comes from taxpayers and the profits get pumped not into “R&D” (or even marketing) but pocketed by billionaires who own the company or have stakes in it.”The USPTO wants no legal challenges because hey, who needs quality control anyway? A lot patent lawyers (or their clients) just want it the easy way; they want to bombard the system with patents (not applications) and not ever face rejection. Wild West. Now there’s a whole new software ‘industry’ dedicated to fooling patent examiners into accepting bogus applications. That’s just another arms race and the potential gains are big (at someone else’s expense). To give this new example from MIP: “A jury in the Northern District of California has ordered Gilead Sciences to pay $200 million in damages for infringing Merck and Ionis Pharmaceuticals patents for compounds and methods used to develop medicines for the treatment of hepatitis C, including Sovaldi and Harvoni.”

So a massive company, Merck, will get to keep its prices artificially high while destroying a smaller company and taking away its money. They tell us it’s good because “R&D” or something along those lines, neglecting to point out that a lot of Merck’s funding actually comes from taxpayers and the profits get pumped not into “R&D” (or even marketing) but pocketed by billionaires who own the company or have stakes in it. So much for ‘innovation’.

Remember what patent offices were conceived and created for. Have we not lost sight of that?

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