It has been more than two years since I last wrote here that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank decision has left the IP bar without a clear and reliable test to determine when exactly a software (or computer-implemented) claim is patentable versus being simply an abstract idea “free to all men and reserved exclusively to none.” It is now mid-2019, and the USPTO’s newest Section 101 guidelines interpreting Alice—and the accompanying examples—have not cleared the confusion, and Alice continues to distract the USPTO, courts, and practitioners from focusing properly on Sections 102 (novelty) and 103 (obviousness). The net effects still being increased cost, lower patent quality, lower patent portfolio valuations, wasted patent reform lobbying dollars and, in many instances, the denial of patent protection for worthwhile software inventions. Meanwhile, in the real world, which is experiencing the Fourth Industrial Revolution—where even the average modern car contains roughly 150 million lines of code—the importance of software is undebatable.
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