Good News: US Patent Office Now Rejecting A Lot More Software Patents

from the good-news-all-around dept

The impact of the Supreme Court's ruling in Alice v. CLS Bank continues to reverberate around the industry. We've already noted that courts have been rapidly invalidating a bunch of patents, and that related lawsuits appear to be dropping rapidly as well. And, now, a new analysis from a (pro-patent) law firm suggests that the US Patent Office is rejecting a lot more software patents as well.

Following the ruling, the US Patent Office issued new rules for examiners, and even withdrew some notices of allowances. And it appears all of this is having an impact. The link above is Vox summarizing some findings from patent lawyer Kate Gaudry of law firm Kilpatrick Townsend, who argues that the data suggests the USPTO is rejecting software patents at a much higher rate. In short, back in January, art units at the USPTO rejected applications based on Section 101 of US Patent law only about 24% of the time. Section 101 covers what is patent eligible, and was the key part in the decision in the Alice case. Effectively, in the Alice ruling, the Supreme Court said that just doing something on a generic computer wasn't patent eligible under Section 101. Following that ruling, in July, the rejection rate jumped to 78%. Yes, from 24% in January to 78% in June. That's massive. The data also shows that units that focus on "other kinds of technology saw little change in their rejection rates."

As the Vox story notes, Gaudry is freaked out that this will destroy innovation. "Without incentive, say goodbye to the quick pace of innovation we enjoy." But that's ridiculous, as anyone who actually works in software innovation knows. Patents have long been a drag on innovation in the field, setting up minefields and tollbooths that have worked to limit the pace of innovation, not speed it along. The idea that without patents there are no incentives is pure ignorance. The incentive is building a useful tool or service and being able to monetize it in a variety of ways. The idea that competition destroys incentives is simply ignorant of the history of innovation and basic economics.

The rapid decline in software patents is a huge boon for innovation.
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Filed Under: business method patents, patents, rejections, software patents, uspto
Companies: alice, cls bank


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  1. icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 14 Oct 2014 @ 10:39am

    Re:

    "Before Alice investors would look for patents (or just applications) as way to show the company is serious and has a product that wouldn't be copied right away."

    If by "investors" you mean VCs, then this is incorrect. Most VCs have been saying for years that they don't really care about software patents.

    "On top of that, the big companies are going to hide any new developments away behind trade secret."

    They already do, and have been for a very, very long time. Software patents don't enter into this (the majority of software patents are worthless in terms of knowledge transfer anyway).

    "doesn't acknowledge that software is a major part of computers even though they can't hold it in their hands"

    Perhaps because how major a part of computer operation software is has nothing to do with whether or not software should be patentable.

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