PTO Issues Report to Congress on Patent Eligible Subject Matter
On June 24, 2022, the US Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) issued a report to Congress titled “Patent Eligible Subject Matter: Public Views on the Current Jurisprudence in the United States.” The report comes in response to a March 5, 2021, letter from Senators Tillis (R-NC), Coons (D-DE), Hirono (D-HI) and Cotton (R-AR) expressing concern over a lack of consistency and clarity in US patent eligibility laws since the Supreme Court of the United States’ rulings in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International and Mayo Collaborative Services Inc. v. Prometheus Laboratories Inc. The PTO solicited public feedback until October 15, 2021, and the report summarizes the PTO’s findings based on the 141 comments it received.
The report found that supporters of the current state of the law on eligibility tended to be companies faced with abusive and costly litigation involving “overbroad” patents, mostly related to software. Those companies noted that the current law allows them to avoid or more efficiently resolve abusive and costly litigation. Some high-tech representatives noted that their investments and innovations have increased under current eligibility jurisprudence. Certain life sciences and patient advocacy organizations also favored the current law, noting its role in enhancing access to medical technologies.
Respondents critical of the current state of the law included many patent practitioners and innovative companies, especially companies involved in life sciences. These respondents stated that current law makes patents less available and rights less predictable and has inhibited investment in new technologies and companies. Several startups and small- and medium-sized enterprises also noted that the current law undermines innovation by decreasing the availability of private risk capital and works to concentrate markets in the hands of a few large, well-resourced entities, thereby decreasing competition. Some commenters stated that they no longer seek patents and instead rely on trade secrets, resulting in reduced public disclosure of technological innovations.
The PTO will continue to solicit feedback from stakeholders, including through listening sessions. The PTO noted that additional feedback and suggestions may be sent to [email protected].