The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is giving its patent examiners new marching orders for determining whether certain patent applications that contain abstract ideas — including those for computer-related inventions — should be granted.
On Jan. 4, the USPTO published new guidance for how it will judge subject matter eligibility under Section 101 of the U.S. Patent Act. The guidance, which went into effect Jan. 7, gives examiners clearer direction on how they will carry out the U.S. Supreme Court’s so-called Alice/Mayo test, such that it will be harder for them to reject a patent application for being directed to an abstract idea.
The guidance takes steps, using case law, to define what an abstract idea is under Section 101 — a gray area that has vexed companies seeking patent protection for less concrete inventions such as software and certain medical treatments. The guidance also clarifies ways a patent claim that recites an abstract concept could still be patent eligible depending on how it integrates that concept into a practical application.
The USPTO also released new guidance on how it will examine specific issues in patent claims for computer-related inventions.