Senators Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) continue to move forward with revamping patent laws in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Alice decision. As posted about previously here and here, action has been taken by those at the USPTO and in the legislative body to pin down what is and is not eligible for patent protection. Eligibility does not guarantee patent protection, but indicates whether a type of invention can receive a patent at all.
The bi-partisan duo has conducted various private roundtables with industry leaders to come up with legislation. This week, emails were sent out to roundtable participants laying out the four “guiding principles” of the prospective legislation.
The first principle states that inventions that meet the statutory requirements for patent eligibility should be eligible for protection.
The second principle indicates that the claimed invention must be viewed as a whole with each part of the invention being given equal weight. This principle takes aim at the Patent Office’s typical disregard for many inventive elements as simply “routine,” “conventional,” or “post-solution activity”.
The third principle is directed at treatment of life science and diagnostic technologies. Rather than trying to force them into laws of nature and natural phenomena, these inventions should be treated as patent eligible as long as they meet the statutory requirements.
The fourth principle takes aim at exceptions to eligibility that have been created by the courts. The principle states that any changes to the eligibility statute should codify what is and is not patent eligible. Any existing exceptions made by the courts should be ignored.
At this point, the changes have only amounted to a “skeletal outline” that will be discussed at another roundtable in April. The Senators hope to have a bill introduced by early summer with substantial progress on that bill being made still this year.
If things continue on this path, the patent eligibility landscape is going to undergo a significant change that seems likely to lead to a wealth of inventive subject matter becoming eligible for patent protection. Many inventors have been sitting on the sidelines since the Alice decision, but with the speed of this legislation’s development that could not be the case for very much longer.
If you have had a sour taste in your mouth about patents, now would be the time to give them another look. Remember, America’s patent system is based on the first inventor to file, so this is a race to the patent office. The second thing to remember is that patent applications filed today may not be examined for many months to years. Getting your place in line now may be the safest bet while waiting to see what Congress does with this planned legislation.