Wednesday, April 9, 2014

USPTO Issues New Guidelines on Patentable Subject Matter

The USPTO recently issued new guidelines for patent examiners to use in determining whether a claimed invention meets the baseline criteria to be eligible for patent protection. Recent Supreme Court cases have significantly altered these criteria. Section 101 of the Patent Code says:
Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Supreme Court to Decide Standard of Review for Patent Claim Interpretation Rule

The Supreme Court on Monday granted a petition for review of the Federal Circuit's en banc decision upholding its practice of applying de novo review of patent claim construction decisions. Rule 52 states that "findings of fact ... must not be set aside unless clearly erroneous.” The petitioner stated the question on appeal as:

Whether a district court’s factual finding in support of its construction of a patent claim term may be reviewed de novo, as the Federal Circuit requires (and as the panel explicitly did in this case), or only for clear error, as Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(a) requires.

I'll go out on a thick limb and predict that the Supreme Court will unanimously reverse the Federal Circuit and require some degree of deference to findings of fact in District Court decisions while still allowing de novo review of the legal conclusion. The only question is how the Court will attempt to draw a line between factual and legal conclusions in claim construction.