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US government report targets software patents

Focus on the type of patent, rather than the identity of the litigant: that was the conclusion of a US Government Accountability Office report into patent litigation and patent quality published this week

The report, which was mandated under Section 34 of the America Invents Act, noted that lawsuits involving software-related patents accounted for about 89% of the increase in defendants between 2007 and 2011. It added that most of the suits brought by so-called patent monetisation entities involved software-related patents.

In 2011 patents related to software made up more than half of all patents issued in the United States.

The report concluded that a focus on whether the litigants are operating or non-operating companies, individual inventors or big companies etc, may be “misplaced”.

The GAO welcomed the USPTO’s recent efforts “to work with the software industry to more uniformly define software terminology and make it easier to identify relevant patents and patent owners”.

It also recommended that the USPTO consider examining trends in patent infringement litigation, including the types of patents and issues in dispute, and consider linking this information to internal data on patent examination to improve the quality of issued patents and the patent examination process.

That was the only recommendation made in the report.

In a response, Teresa Stanek Rea, acting director of the USPTO, said the Office concurred with the recommendation.

She said the Office agreed “it would be appropriate to consider making better use of information [relating to patent cases] by examining trends in patent infringement litigation”. It also agreed that it would be appropriate to consider linking trends in patent litigation to internal data on patent examination.

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