Important Patent Issues in 2015

As the year has begun, let’s take a look at what will be important issues in the world of patents in 2015.  You might want to keep your eye on developments in these areas:

  1. Follow-up to the America Invents Act

    By the end of 2014, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board had written over 200 decisions in response to challenges to patents filed under the America Invents Act of 2011.  Many of these decisions have been appealed to the Federal Circuit, but none of them have been decided yet.  The IP world will likely keep an eye on the response of Federal Courts to these challenges, most importantly whether or not they uphold the board’s decisions.

    One case which received considerable attention last year and will likely also be important this year is In re: Cuozzo Speed Technologies LLC.  This case was heard last November and could have important implications for future patents filed under the AIA.  The appeal regards the claim construction standards which the board uses in reviews, insisting that the board should adhere to the same standards as district courts.  If the board were to adhere to the same standards as district courts, it would be more difficult to invalidate patents.  If the Federal Court sides with Cuozo, future reviews will be significantly impacted.  If the Court upholds the boards standards however, this will help to stabilize the new system.

  2. Claims to Abstract Ideas and Natural Materials

    Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International and Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics were two cases which created plenty of buzz and in return received lots of attention this past year.  In the Alice Corp. case, the US Supreme Court decided that a certain software patent application was not eligible for patentability because it merely consisted of an abstract idea and simply implementing this abstract idea on a computer did not constitute a patentable invention.

    In the Myriad Genetics case, the Supreme Court invalidated gene patents which covered isolated DNA sequences by holding that merely isolating existing genes or matter found in nature does not constitute a patentable invention, since these materials are not inventive but instead produced by nature.  Since those decisions, many courts have cited them to invalidate patents that only claim abstract ideas or natural materials.  The Federal Circuit and the Patent Trial and Appeal Board will likely face multiple cases regarding the implications of these decisions this year.