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The case sent shockwaves not just across the courts, but across the USPTO as well, with many alleging that the decision provided too little guidance to patent examiners on how to evaluate software and business methods claims.
Some patent attorneys even believe that certain examiners simply reject everything that may present an Alice issue, preferring that the PTAB or the courts handle the issue instead.
This decision has had a particularly strong effect on software and business method patents, many of which, like those at issue in Alice, concern economic activities implemented on computers. These patents are still being granted after Alice, but are being granted at lower rates than before, and some assignees are better at obtaining them than others.
Because Alice concerned abstract ideas implemented on general-purpose computers, tech centers and art units touching on business methods patents have been particularly affected by Alice, most notably TChome to the e-commerce art units.
As we reported in August, Alice has already had a profound effect on assignees operating in the s, with the overall average allowance rate dropping from However, the s are not the exclusive province of Alice rejections, as they can be found with varying frequency across almost all tech centers at the USPTO.
In fact, the only technology center with no Alice rejections iswhich handles design patents. As the home of art units covering business methods, Alice hit this technology center particularly hard. Looking further into the s, the vast majority of Alice rejections See Figure 2 for a breakdown of the distribution of Alice rejections in the s.
Looking deeper into the s, s, and s, the reach of Alice becomes apparent. We then calculated the percentage of those rejections that cited Alice, focusing only on examiners that have issued at least ten rejections since the Alice decision.
While applicants throughout the s, s, and s can likely expect an Alice rejection, the Alice rejection rate does vary by art unit. The average Alice rejection rate across all art units in the s, s, and s is The art unit with the highest Alice rejection rate isat The art unit with the lowest Alice rejection rate is at For a full ranking of the top 10 art units with the highest Alice rejection rates, see Figure 4.
As Figure 4 demonstrates, the reach of Alice is staggering, accounting for well over three-quarters of all rejections in the top 10 art units. The data becomes even more staggering when looking at the individual examiner level.
The Author James Cosgrove is a Legal Analyst at Juristata legal tech company that develops predictive models of the behavior of judges, patent examiners, attorneys, and other entities. He is a graduate of St.
Louis University School of Law. The pages, articles and comments on IPWatchdog. Discuss this There are currently 10 Comments comments. Curious December 14, 4: Probably not the best date to use. Better dates would be: June 25, interim guidelines published December worksheet published July 30, July update on subject matter eligibility Regardless of the dates, the tech center as usual is pushing the boundaries of the law.
FExa December 15, 9: Since is mostly software applications, I would have expected a higher portion of rejections from there.
I also agree with the comment made by Curious above, that studying the statistics after some of the key milestone dates would prove helpful. Night Writer December 15, Gene Quinn December 15, This potential strategy is particularly useful in situations where the Examiner cannot find a reference that shows that a particular claimed feature was known in the art.
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