Perspective: Weakening Alice Will Weaken the U.S. Patent System’s Second Engine of Innovation
Today is Alice’s fifth birthday; some may not be celebrating, but as a birthday gift, John Vandenberg argues the decision was not new law and should not be abrogated. – On the third day of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee – IP Subcommittee’s hearings this month on whether to radically revise the standards for patent eligibility, I testified on behalf of our patent system’s under-appreciated second engine of innovation. Below are some of the key arguments I made in my oral and written testimony and my thoughts on why the Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank decision was good law that should not be abrogated. Much of the anti-Alice commentary touts our patent system’s first engine of innovation, which uses the lure of monopoly profits or royalties to incentivize innovation and the public disclosure of those innovations. Today’s Sec. 101 jurisprudence is said to harm that first engine of innovation, particularly in life sciences where it is easier to get a patent in Europe and China than in the U.S., causing investment in personalized therapy and medicine R&D in the U.S. to suffer. While some question those factual premises, the “101 status quo” camp primarily responds that Alice (along with IPRs) has curtailed abusive patent troll litigation, cutting patent litigation costs by 40% or more. But, another important point has received little attention: expanding what can be patented, and how claimed, risks harming our patent system’s second engine of innovation.