Posts Tagged: "business method patents"

Software and business methods over half of Google, Microsoft US patents

Software and method patents may appear to have fallen out of favor because of recent court decisions and legislation. However, recent trends indicate that they comprise surprisingly high portions of four US companies’ recent grants. Of the 2,599 US patents granted last year to Google, 1,522, or 59% were in the methods classes. Microsoft, with 2,847 patents received, had 1,575, or 55%, that fall under the heading of methods.

Post-Alice, Allowances are a Rare Sighting in Business-Method Art Units

Since the Alice Corp. decision, rejections under 35 U.S.C. 101 have become substantially more common in business-method art units, and notices of allowance have become substantially more rare in these art units. Meanwhile, 101 rejections made even pre-Alice were amongst the poorest quality for business-method art units as compared to those from other computer-oriented art units. Thus, it appears as though the patent prospects for applications assigned to business-method art units are grim. Given that the United States has traditionally been a leader in software and that software applications are frequently assigned to business-method art units, it seems unfortunate that the patent office is so unwilling to grant protection to innovation in this area.

1998: Federal Circuit Says Yes to Business Methods

It is really incorrect to say that the Federal Circuit eliminated the business method exception in State Street Bank, although the same net effect admittedly occurred regardless of how you characterize the ruling. It is better to say that the Federal Circuit went out of its way to explain that the business method exception had really never existed in the first place. The court explained that neither it nor its predecessor court, the CCPA, had ever applied the business method exception to a single case. Furthermore, Judge Rich explained that the cases relied upon to support the existence of the business method exception were In re Maucorps and In re Meyer were both rendered prior to the Supreme Court’s decision in Diehr, and prior to the Federal Circuit’s abandonment of the Freeman-Walter-Abele test. Furthermore, the Maucorps and Meyer cases were decided not on the business method exception, but on the mathematical algorithm exception.

Alice in Blunderland: The Supreme Court’s Conflation of Abstractness and Obviousness

The problem with this analytical approach lies not in the two-step Mayo “algorithm,” but rather in framing the analysis in terms of subject matter eligibility under Section 101 rather than patentability under 103. Section 101 is intended to deal with the eligibility of the claimed subject matter for patent protection as a class (i.e., genus or sub-genus) of inventions, rather than the contribution of the particular invention (i.e., species) defined by the claim vis-a-vis the prior art. So why did the Supreme Court frame the inquiry in terms of patent-eligible subject matter, rather than proceeding directly to the question of obviousness?

Patentability of Business Methods and Software In Australia – Full Federal Court Decides Much Anticipated Research Affiliates Case

The Australian Full Federal Court recently handed down its decision in Research Affiliates LLC v Commissioner of Patents. The decision is an important addition to Australian case law concerning the patentability of business methods and software. Judges Kenny, Bennett, and Nicholas ruled that the Appellant’s claimed computer implemented method for generating an index for use in securities trading was unpatentable as an abstract idea. The Court held that “[t]he claimed method in this case clearly involves what may well be an inventive idea, but it is an abstract idea. The specification makes it apparent that any inventive step arises in the creation of the index as information and as a scheme. There is no suggestion in the specification or the claims that any part of the inventive step lies in the computer implementation.

Federal Circuit Nightmare in CLS Bank v. Alice Corp.

The only thing we know is this — the Federal Circuit issued an extraordinarily brief per curiam decision, which stated: “Upon consideration en banc, a majority of the court affirms the district court’s holding that the asserted method and computer-readable media claims are not directed to eligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101. An equally divided court affirms the district court’s holding that the asserted system claims are not directed to eligible subject matter under that statute.” Thus, the asserted claims are not patent eligible.

Fixing the Patent System to Improve Innovation

Settling nuisance value perpetuates the cycle, as the automobile industry discovered in the 1980s and early 1990s. Show a willingness to pay extortion-like demands and you will see more lawsuits filed. It is an endless cycle, at least until it gets broken. The solution is an easy one — fight at least occasionally, or at least one! Because the easy solution isn’t pursued and instead the industry pursues a strategy akin to a Buck during deer hunting season I have to assume that they really don’t want a solution. What other conclusion can you reach when intelligent people ignore the obvious?

Patent Eligibility Today: Are Software Methods Patentable?

Two common criticisms of software patents, as compared to patents in the pharmaceutical and biotech sectors, are (a) the relatively low cost of invention; and (b) the relative ease of implementation. Are these the right factors for us to be considering for purposes of inventiveness? It seems to me that if we are going to be perfectly honest and engage in a discussion that embraces the realities of the industry we have to recognize that this criticism from those who detest software patents is based on factual fallacies. If software is so easy to create and implement why then does software of all sorts suffer from so many problems, require so many fixes and crash without warning?

Art Units in Misc. Computer Applications Have 72% Allowance

This all means that the “business method Art Units” are not the only ones charged with examining applications covering computer-implemented methods. In fact, there are Art Units where from a patentee perspective you would really rather be assigned because they have allowance rates in excess of 70%. In fact, one cluster of Art Units identified as covering “Miscellaneous Computer Applications,” which by class is assigned to data processing, has an allowance rate of 72.2% according to data available via PatentAdvisor™.

Allowance Rates for Art Units Examining Business Methods

If I were a patent examiner that hadn’t issued patents for years I wouldn’t want anyone to know that either. Similarly, if I were a Supervisory Patent Examiner (SPE) in an Art Unit that routinely only issued patents after a long drawn out appeal process that resulted in the Board overturning the rejections I wouldn’t want the public to know about that either. Sadly, this type of gaming exists at the Patent Office. There are examiners who only rarely issue patents and Art Units that openly tell patent attorneys that they don’t issue patents unless ordered to do so by the Board. Knowing that this happens, which is supported by hard data, makes it impossible to tolerate the anti-patent zealots who routinely opine about just how easy it is to get a software or business method patent issued. Really? You have to be kidding!

CLS Bank v Alice – Federal Circuit Orders en banc Rehearing

It is arguable that neither view is beyond criticism and that any emergent legal test as to patent-eligibility demands further development. There is much to commend the majority view that each of §§101, 102, 103 and 112 serves a different purpose and presents different questions and that under §101 only when it is apparent that the claimed subject-matter is a manifestly ineligible abstract idea should that subject-matter be excluded. Significant involvement of a computer in the working of the invention points towards invention.

Post Grant Review, Inter Partes Review and Transitional Program for Covered Business Method Patents

Post Grant Review, Inter Partes Review and the Transitional Program for Covered Business Method Patents were instituted with the goal of improving patent quality by giving third parties methods to challenge patents that are less expensive and less involved than litigation. Each of these procedures is a trial before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (Board) composed of Administrative Patent Judges and subject to Part 42 of 37 C.F.R., Trial Practice Before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. The trials allow for limited discovery, which has not been available in Ex Parte or Inter Partes Reexamination, the existing procedures for challenging patents in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Because the discovery is limited, it is unlikely that these procedures will be used in cases where large amounts of evidence may be needed to prove patent invalidity.

Business Methods (and Software) are Still Patentable!

For at least the past 15 years, the legal, technical and academic communities have been debating the patentability of business methods and software. Despite much negative press ink, talk, legislative activity and court opinions, the answer with respect to patent eligibility is still a resounding and categorical “yes.” That’s the easy part. What types of business methods and software exactly are patentable? That is the difficult question to answer.

UK Perspective: Bancorp Services v. Sun Life Assurance

The EPO applies what might be referred to as a “subtraction” test for claims containing a mixture of patent-eligible and patent-ineligible features, those features that are patent-ineligible being disregarded and novelty and obviousness under aa. 54 and 56 EPC being evaluated on the basis of the remaining features. Judge Lourie suggested a somewhat similar “subtraction” test here.

Bancorp Services: Further Fracturing of the Patent Eligibility Landscape for Business Methods and Systems*

In holding the method, system, and media claims of the ‘792 and ‘037 patents to “cover no more than abstract ideas and therefore do no recite patent-eligible subject matter,” Judge Lourie’s opinion trivializes the relevance of computer implementation in these claims. That’s brought out when he later says that the “interchangeability of certain mental processes and basic digital computation” makes the “use of a computer in an otherwise patent-ineligible process for no more than its most basic function” (i.e., making calculations or computations) inadequate “to circumvent the prohibition against patenting abstract ideas and mental processes.” In fact, Judge Lourie went even further by saying that “a computer must be integral to the claimed invention, facilitating the process in a way that a person making calculations or computations could not” to “salvage an otherwise patent-ineligible process,” citing the 2010 case of SiRF Technology, Inc. v. ITC (method for calculating the position of a GPS receiver satisfied the MOT test). In other words, computer implementation of the claimed business method (or system) must be absolutely necessary to its usefulness to satisfy Judge Lourie’s criteria for reaching the patent-eligibility zone.

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