The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office announced that it is seeking to form a partnership with the software community to enhance the quality of software-related patents. According to the USPTO, “The Software Partnership will be an opportunity to bring stakeholders together through a series of roundtable discussions to share ideas, feedback, experiences, and insights on software-related patents.”
The announcement follows comments addressing criticism that the “patent wars” between companies like Samsung and Apple signal that the system is broken. However, the USPTO did acknowledge that patent protection must be “properly tailored in scope, so that programmers can write code and engineers can design devices without fear of unfounded accusations of infringement.” The new initiative appears to be designed to further that end.
As detailed in a Federal Register Notice, the USPTO is seeking feedback on the following topics:
- Establishing Clear Boundaries for Claims That Use Functional Language: The USPTO seeks comments on how to more effectively ensure that the boundaries of a claim are clear so that the public can understand what subject matter is protected by the patent claim and the patent examiner can identify and apply the most pertinent prior art.
- Future Discussion Topics for the Software Partnership: The USPTO seeks public input on topics related to enhancing the quality of software-related patents to be discussed at future Software Partnership events. According to the agency, the topics will be used to “extend and expand the dialogue between the public and the USPTO regarding enhancing quality of software-related patents.”
- Oral Presentations on Preparation of Patent Applications: The USPTO will issue a Request for Comments on Preparation of Patent Applications. The purpose of this forthcoming Request for Comments is to seek public input on whether certain practices could or should be used during the preparation of an application to place the application in the best possible condition for examination and whether the use of these practices would assist the public in determining the scope of the claims as well as the meaning of the claim terms in the specification. The USPTO is seeking early comments from roundtable participants to the extent that they pertain to software-related inventions.