Judge Michel Sounds Off About Alice v. CLS Bank

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Paul Michel, who we in the patent community know as the former Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. When Judge Michel stepped down as Chief Judge and retired several years ago, he told me that he decided to retire so he could say what needed to be said on behalf of the patent system, something he felt he couldn’t do while a member of the federal judiciary. Judge Michel has been true to his promise. He keeps an active schedule.

Judge Michel has been generous with his time over the past several years, and I have interviewed him on a number of topics. Most recently we discussed the Supreme Court’s patent decisions during the October 2013 term, spending most of our discussion on Alice v. CLS Bank.

Below are the highlights of my interview with Judge Michel. If you would like to read the entire interview, which lasted for approximately one hour and spans over 9,000 words, please see: Judge Michel says Alice Decision ‘will create total chaos’.


IBM Brief: Abstract Idea Jurisprudence Is Unworkable

On March 31, 2014, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case that could determine the fate of software patents in the United States. Recently, IBM filed an amicus brief at the United States Supreme Court in the case of Alice Corporation Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank International. While many attorneys contributed to this brief, former Solicitor General of the United States Paul D. Clement is the Counsel of Record on behalf of IBM.

I think it is fair to say that the IBM brief can be summarized as follows: ‘The abstract idea doctrine is unworkable.’ Bravo! If the Supreme Court cannot define the term “abstract idea,” which they have never done,  how can it be at all appropriate for the Court to apply the doctrine as if it has meaning? At least with respect to software, there is also no uniform application of the patent laws, which at least conceptually should raise concerns of disparate treatment of those similarly situated.

Something needs to be done to once and for all acknowledge that software is patent eligible. Even having to say that and hope it is what ultimately happens is truly saddening in the year 2014. Software is all around us and empowers practically everything, and according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report from August 2013, somewhere between 50% to 60% of all patent applications filed deal in some way with software. Software is the very backbone of innovation and the fact that we have to wonder whether it is patent eligible more than 46 years after the first software patent issued is really an indictment of the judicial system as it relates to patent law and jurisprudence.


Institute Live Blog: Reactions To Bilski

Next panel  – “What Hath Bilski v. Kappos: Fallout in the Courts and the USPTO”.  The panel includes, Gary Hoffman of Dickstein Shaprio, David M. Rosenblatt of Thomson Reuters and Associate Prof. Michael Risch of Villanova School of Law.

– Gary Hoffman began with a discussion on how the Courts have reacted to Bilski.  The Federal Circuit has cited Bilski 7 times: 2 cases with substantive post-Bilski analysis: Prometheus (Court held MOT test is relevant but not the only test) & Research Corp. Tech (Court focused on whether the subject matter fails s 101’s requirement that it not be “abstract”); 2 references to the recency of the decision, 1 citation to the Supreme Court’s instruction that formulaic rules should be avoided,  1 metnion in dissent (Intervet), 1 case (King Pharma) where s101 analysis was passed over because the Fed Circ had already found the claims anticipated. (more…)

Europe’s Approach To Patentability Of Business Methods

This post comes courtesy of our friends at DLA Piper, George Godar (Partner in DLA Piper UK’s London office in the Technology, Media and Commercial group) and David Alberti (Partner in DLA Piper’s Silicon Valley office. He  focuses on patent litigation, prosecution and counseling). 

The issues raised in the recent United States Supreme Court Bilski decision are not exclusive to the US. Europe has been considering these issues for years and has still not reached a conclusion accepted by all signatory countries to the European Patent Convention. 

Under the EPC, rules and methods for performing mental acts and doing business, or a program for a computer, are excluded from patent protection if the claims of the patent relate to that thing as such. The European Patent Office (EPO), and national courts, have wrestled with these exclusions. The solutions they have reached may be pragmatic but are not always mutually consistent.   (more…)

Post-Bilski: “Patent Strategy for Personalized Medicine”

Today’s guest post comes from Michael J. Shuster, Ph.D. (a partner in Fenwick & West’s Intellectual Property group and co-chair of  the lifes sciences group) and Pauline Farmer-Koppenol (associate in Fenwick & West’s intellectual property group).

Protecting inventions in personalized medicine with patents is essential to making the investment in research and development of those inventions worthwhile.  Absent meaningful patent protection, however, companies will be less likely to pursue such innovation since there is nothing to prevent competitors from free-riding on the back of the many hours and millions of dollars expended by the innovator company.

Personalized medicine diagnostics can produce meaningful improvements in patient outcome and medical economics.  Diagnostic innovations developed by University of California Professors Dan Pinkel and Joe Gray allowed for the first time sensitive and accurate measures of gene amplifications in breast cancer patient biopsies. This allows physicians to determine whether Herceptin® (trastuzumab) treatment is likely to improve the patient’s outcome because only tumors with the amplification respond to Herceptin®.  Pinkel and Gray’s remarkable invention was exclusively licensed to Abbot Laboratories which devoted years of effort and millions of dollars to bring this innovation to market.  Considering the cost of a full course of treatment with Herceptin®, approximately $70,000, the development of the HER2/neu amplification diagnostic test is valuable not only in minimizing the use of an expensive treatment for patients for whom it is unlikely to provide benefit, but it also helps patients by not wasting valuable time pursuing a treatment that is unlikely to be beneficial. (more…)