United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Software Patent Hearing in San Jose Shows Difference of Opinions
On Tuesday February 12th the USPTO held a hearing on software patent quality at Stanford University in Palo Alto. The hearing featured speakers presumably chosen to represent the various divergent views of software patents held by various industry participants and legal experts, including distinguished professors of law to small developers to tech giants. The speakers included:
Mark A. Lemley, William H. Neukom Professor at Stanford Law School
Colleen V. Chien, Assistant Professor of Law at Santa Clara Law School
Horacio Gutierrez, Corporate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel for Microsoft Corp.
Peter Tennent, IP Counsel IBM
Edward Goodmann, Analyst, Hattery Labs
John Ellis, Independent Developer
Aaron Greenspan, Code X Fellow, Stanford Law School
Tim Molino, Director of Government Relations for the Business Software Alliance
Jeremy Russell, Programmer
Julie Samuels, Staff Attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation
Jon Potter, President, Application Developers Alliance
Aseet Patel, Esq. Partner, Banner & Witcoff, Ltd.
In a nutshell, it seemed that the large industry incumbents (Microsoft, IBM, BSA) favored improving the existing system using existing legal constructs, as opposed to any sharp departure from well established principles of software patent claim treatment. Those representing smaller developers/industry participants appeared to be seeking more dramatic reform, while at the same time more or less acknowledging that software patents are not going away.
Professor Lemley and Professor Chien explored the theme of a more aggressive use of the written description and enablement requirements of 35 USC to limit the breadth of software patent claims.
The USPTO is scheduled to hold another hearing on this topic in New York City on Wednesday, February 27th.