Patents as property II: Rethinking SW patents?

A Time to Rethink

Patents as property was also front and center in the thoughts of one judge on the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the main appellate court for patent disputes in the US. Senior Judge S. Jay Plager, speaking at a symposium at George Mason University, called for a “rethinking” of several aspects of patent law by returning to its origins in property law.

According to the BNA, Plager “called for a renewed focus on setting recognizable patent ownership boundaries and on strengthening the notice function that patents are intended to serve. Such a reevaluation might require a reassessment of whether software and business methods are patentable subject matter, Plager said. It might lead to limiting a patent’s scope to what was known at the time of the application filing, and to an abandonment the doctrine of equivalents as a basis for patent infringement liability.”

In addition to rethinking claim construction,

Plager said he regretted the unintended consequences of the decisions in State Street Bank and AT&T. Those rulings led to a flood of applications for software and business method patents, he noted. If we “rethink the breadth of patentable subject matter,” he said, we should ask whether these categories should be excluded from patent protection.

This new thinking is certainly encouraging. Let’s see how it develops.

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