USPTO Patent Examination Outcomes After Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International

The U.S. patent system involves an interdependent and dynamic network of institutions. As one of the central institutions in this network, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) evaluates and adjusts to changes that originate in other parts of the system. Through those adjustments, the USPTO is able to optimize the timeliness and quality of patent examination while staying within the legal parameters set by other institutions through U.S. statutes, judicial rulings, and international treaties.

On June 19, 2014, the U.S. patent system experienced a major change. The U.S. Supreme Court reached a unanimous decision in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International  that altered the law on patent subject matter eligibility. Alice Corp., the patent owner, argued that its patent claims directed to a computer-implemented financial settlement system were valid because they did not fall into the patent-ineligible category of “abstract ideas.” Rejecting the patent owner’s arguments, the Court held the claims patent ineligible on the basis that generic computer implementation does not transform a patent-ineligible abstract idea into a patent-eligible invention. In doing so, the Court effectively broadened the scope of ineligible subject matter. Moreover, the decision created uncertainty in the business and legal communities. Ambiguity in the language of the Alice standard and in the scope of technologies involving “abstract ideas” made it difficult to predict how and where the standard would be applied.

Source: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

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