It’s a week since the presidential
pronouncement on patent trolls, and everyone has had their say.
Time magazine tells us "Everyone should care"; The Economist notes
(with a neat image) that "Obama goes troll-hunting"; and even one
"notorious patent troll" says it supports
10 of the 12 proposals.
As political initiatives go, the Obama plan has met with surprisingly
widespread approval. But will it actually change anything? The
five executive actions, which mostly affect the USPTO, will
have limited impact. The seven legislative reforms, meanwhile,
are likely to take a long time to reach the statute book.
As we reported last week, there are at present six competing bills in Congress, all of
them seeking to tackle at least some of the problems Obama
identified. These will have to be reconciled. Factor in the
likely disputes over details once proper political debate
starts, and the competing priorities in Congress, and it could
be 2015 before any new law is effective.
However, that does not mean nothing is
happening in US patent law. In the short term, change is more
likely to come from the courts than the politicians.
It’s clear from the Federal Circuit’s divided bench
in CLS Bank, and the sometimes despairing reaction to it, that the
question of when and how software should be eligible to be
patented is very much alive. As Erika Arner and Lauren Dreyer
argue in our latest issue, the case "seems primed for Supreme Court review".
I’d be astonished if the Court does not take up
CLS Bank, or a similar case addressing Section
We will be hosting a webinar on the CLS Bank case on
June 18 at 12 noon EDT. Speakers include Robert Fischer and
Michael Sandonato of Fitzpatrick Cella Harper & Scinto and
Renny Hwang of Google, which filed an amicus brief in
CLS Bank. Renny will set out Google’s
position on the issue and explain why the company decided to
argue its case.
Registration for the hour-long webinar is free and
participants will also be able to ask questions of the
So much for software. Those in the biotech field also have
plenty to think about, and we have another webinar on June 27 at noon EDT focussing on
patent issues for that industry, including the recent Monsanto decision on patent
exhaustion and the pending Myriad case on eligibility
(which may be decided by the time of the webinar).
These cases have the potential to transform patent
protection in the United States at least as much as the Obama
proposals, and probably much more quickly. Whichever industry
you work in, wherever you are based, whether patent owner or
third party, be sure to take note.