Monday, March 26, 2018

The Worth of a Patent (Application): Well Drafted Verse Self-Written

It bears repeating that technology-based Entrepreneurs usually need a well-written patent application.  This Blogger has inherited applications that were written by talent-challenged drafters.  And we almost always hit a train wreck at some point.

First, the Patent Office will perform an "initial examination." During this phase, they will look for everything from trivial grammatical errors up to more serious issues such as confused writing and hopelessly drafted claims. All of these issues will likely occur in Inventor-written applications. Straightening these issues out, if possible, can cost thousands of dollars.


Eventually the Patent Office will perform a substantive examination. At that time, the claims and written description come under severe scrutiny. If the claims do not measure up (even seasoned Patent Attorneys have issues with claim drafting) they will be rejected as being unclear or missing the point(s) disclosed in the application.


Of course, prior art will raise its ugly head at this point. And the best defense against prior art is having a detailed, thorough application. Otherwise, no recourse might exist to argue around close prior art.

Assuming that the application issues as a patent, its worth will largely be determined by the strength of the claims and the backing those claims have in the description. Poorly written claims can be designed around leaving the patent virtually worthless. This Blogger performed one analysis in which all we had to do was not use a “coil spring” to actuate a particular device leaving us free to move ahead with a competing product.

Lack of a good description in the application can also render a patent subject to collateral attack. And that is doubly true in this age of post-grant reviews of various sorts at the Patent Office. In short, a non-Patent Agent/Attorney has very little chance of drafting a well-written patent application.

We at the Villhard Patent Group would welcome the opportunity to discuss your Intellectual Property. You can find more information about us at www.villhardpatents. Or you can contact us at 512-897-0399. We look forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL: SOFTWARE AND BUSINESS METHOD PATENTS

Recent decisions indicate that the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals (the court that counts for Patent Law) may be moving toward a “technical arts” test for determining whether software (and business) methods are patent “eligible.”

In many ways this represents good news. For one thing, those of us advising Entrepreneurs can at last give a reasonably good forecast as to whether certain software methods will hit the patent eligibility road block. And if that trend continues (an “if” admittedly) it also tells those of us helping entrepreneurs what to focus the applications on (the technical merits of the idea).

The emerging (perhaps?) trend also lends Entrepreneurs a hand in determining whether to move forward with a patent application for their ideas. And, on a similar note, it helps them identify what to focus on in their discussions with their Patent Attorney. In particular, both the Entrepreneur and Patent Attorney should focus on how the idea helps a computer work better. Better, of course, can be defined in terms of faster, more efficiently, more reliably, and/or doing some other technical feat not previously possible.

The first three points should be self-explanatory. But, perhaps, the latter point needs a little elaboration. In one case, the Fed Circuit found a “self-referential” database to be patent eligible. In short, this new technology included a feature in the software that allowed a database to include a link to itself – self referential. And that was a enough to get that application over the eligibility threshold.

Thus, for now, we at the Villhard Patent Group continue to recommend moving forward with (at least provisional) patent applications for software/business methods. Of course, as we have written in other posts, Entrepreneurs in the software/business methods arena should be aware that patent eligibility will be an issue with their applications.

We at the Villhard Patent Group would welcome an opportunity to discuss this issue with you with regard to your idea. We can be reached at 512-897-0399 or contact@villhardpatents.com. For more information about us please see www.villhard patents.com. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Software/E-Commerce Patent Eligibility: A Ray of Hope At Last


The category 5 patent eligibility hurricane might at last be abating. 

As readers of this blog know, the last 2-3 years have seen an adverse series of precedential court cases declaring most (if not all) e-commerce ideas and many software-related ideas as being patent ineligible “abstract” ideas.

Fortunately, President Trump has nominated a potential software patent champion to be the Director of the Patent and Trademark Office.  Andrei Lancu, the Appointee, is widely reputed to be a strong supporter of software patents.  While this support might/might not extend across the whole scope of software and e-commerce ideas, it is certainly a ray of hope.  For Mr. Lancu will be in a position to immediately modify (or maybe eliminate) the knee-jerk rejection of patent applications dealing with such subject matter.

He will also be in a position to influence policy in a number of ways.  Congress will likely give his input weight.  And he will be in a position to file amicus briefs (“friend of the court” briefs) in pertinent court cases and related appeals.  Accordingly, the sea change that this Blog Author has long hoped for might be in the forecast.  Be sure to check this blog for forecast updates.

In the meantime, we at the Villhard Patent Group would be happy to discuss your ideas and their potential patentability with you.  For more information about us, please see www.villhardpatents.com or call us at 512-897-0399.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Cleaning Up The Patent Eligibility Muck: A Welcome Proposal by The AIPLA



On Friday the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA) released a much needed legislative proposal to hopefully clean up the muck currently polluting patent (in) eligibility inquiries.  Under current U.S. “law”, the courts have made a muddled mess of patent eligibility (under the relevant statute 35 USC š 101).  And, in so doing, they have cast doubt over the patentability of most e-commerce and/or software inventions.

In short, the Courts have created an “abstract” idea exception to patent eligibility that is so broad, so subjective that few inventions could survive it. And the courts (and Patent Office) have long since disappeared into that un-navigable swamp.  We welcome the AIPLA proposal to clean up this court-created mess.  See: http://www.aipla.org/resources2/reports/2017AIPLADirect/Documents/AIPLA%20Report%20on%20101%20Reform-5-12-17.pdf.

This Blogger supports the proposed eligibility exception which states that a claimed invention would be ineligible “…only if the claimed invention as a whole exists in nature independent of and prior to any human activity.”  Restricting ineligibility inquiries to inventions that exist independently of AND (CAPS Intentional) prior to human activity seem like good ideas.  The proposed prohibition against courts (and the Patent Office) mucking about in prior art and drafting-related inquiries (under 35 USC šš 102, 103, and 112) should further limit the reach of the courts during eligibility examinations. And the strongly restrictive term “only” ought to serves as a long overdue admonition against the courts dragging potentially worthy ideas through the "abstract" idea mud.   

We shall see.  

The only improvement to the proposal that this Blogger would like to see is a safe haven for applications that were pending when (in hindsight) this court-created mess became intolerable.  While such a safe haven would be unusual, so too has been the resulting whole scale destruction of IP rights under the current so-called law.  

We at the Villhard Patent Group would welcome a chance to discuss your idea.  You can find more information about us at www.villhard patents.com or you can call us at (512) 897-0399.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Unpatentability Creep: Yet Another Way to Fall into the Publicly Announced Sales Pitfall

On occasion an Entrepreneur will have the good fortune (or marketing skill) to make a sale before having completely worked out how to make their invention work.  In other words they might pre-sale their product/service.  Under current U.S. law, that is now a potential problem.

As we discussed previously, publicly announcing a sale of a product/service incorporating an otherwise patentable idea can render that idea unpatentable.  While the Helsinn decision (see our last posting) did reiterate the requirement that an invention must also be ready for patenting (the Inventor knows enough about it to make it work), the Helsinn decision could nonetheless be an issue in the real world.

This result is so because Entrepreneurs are geared to sell their products.  Additionally, the marketing and research and development (R&D) teams might be somewhat ignorant of each other’s activities.  Thus, it could happen, that marketing might make a pre-sale while R&D still has work to do before understanding the invention well enough to meet the “ready for patenting” standard.  And, of course, both a "public" sale (or perhaps just an offer) and the ready for patenting condition must be present before triggering the offer-for-sale rule.  

But, once that pre-sale has occurred AND (CAPS intentional) is announced AND the invention becomes ready for patenting, that combination triggers the offer-for-sale bar on patentability.  This Blogger’s concern is that the combination of these factors could creep up on many Entrepreneurs.   

To guard against this “unpatentability” creep, Entrepreneurs should examine their marketing and R&D efforts and plans (in conjunction with one another) to ensure that before all three conditions become present that the Entrepreneur has at least filed a provisional patent application.  And that monitoring should occur on an ongoing basis as these efforts unfold and as the related planning documents evolve.

We at the Villhard Patent Group would welcome the opportunity to discuss your ideas and related marketing and R&D efforts with you.  To find more information about us, please visit www.villhardpatents.com or call us at (512) 897-0399.  You can also write us at contact@villhard patents.com.  We look forward to hearing from you soon.