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Breaking: USPTO releases Section 101 report

Kathi Vidal
Kathi Vidal

The patent office report found that stakeholders were still divided over subject matter eligibility but broadly wanted clarity

The USPTO released a report on the state of subject matter eligibility today, June 28.

The office said stakeholders across the spectrum agreed that US patent eligibility law, which is set out in Section 101 under Title 35 of the US Code, needed to be clearer, more predictable and consistently applied. It also confirmed that different stakeholders maintained different views on the matter.

The USPTO published the document in response to a request from senators Thom Tillis, Chris Coons, Mazie Hirono, and Tom Cotton in March 2021.

The senators had asked the office to publish a request for information on the current state of patent eligibility jurisprudence in the US, evaluate the responses, and provide them with a detailed summary of its findings.

The report showed that certain stakeholders supported the current state of Section 101 law because it helped them fight abusive and costly litigation involving software patents they felt were too broad.

Some life sciences and patient advocacy organisations also supported the US’s 101 framework because it bolstered access to medical technologies, the report stated.

The USPTO said in its report that other stakeholders were critical of the law because they felt it inhibited investment in new technologies and companies, especially in life sciences.

Some start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises argued that Section 101 law as it stood lowered access to private risk capital and undermined innovation.

“Though these results were not surprising, the USPTO will continue to solicit feedback from stakeholders, including through listening sessions,” the report stated.

The topic of Section 101 gained traction in the US after the Supreme Court issued its rulings on Mayo, Myriad and Alice between 2012 and 2014. These edicts made it harder for companies to obtain diagnostics, gene sequencing, software and other related patents.

The Supreme Court is now deciding whether to hear American Axle v Neapco. In that case, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit invalidated American Axle’s drive shaft patent on the basis that it was directed towards a law of nature.

Counsel previously told Managing IP that they hoped the report would drive legislative change on Section 101.

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