BIO recently generated a letter to the PTO on the March 6th Guidelines on the patent-eligibility of subject matter in the life sciences, particularly “natural products.” BIO invited a group of in-house and private practitioners to comment on the Guidelines and a number of them – including myself – signed off on the letter. Following appearances by a Mr. Hirschfeld at a number of industry conferences and symposia, the biotech/pharma community felt that there is a realistic chance the initial Guidelines will be released in revised form in the near future.
Archive for the ‘Patentable Subject Matter’ Category
Last Sunday’s episode of “The Good Wife” featured a Christian mediation between a farmer (Robert Joy) sued by a Pioneer-like company, represented by the actor Richard Thomas, for saving GMO corn seed for replanting. The facts were a mash-up of J.E.M. Ag Supply v. Pioneer Hi-Bred., 534 U.S. 124 (2001), and Monsanto Canada v. Schmeiser, 1 S.C.R. 902 (2004). In the former case, JEM was selling Pioneer’s hybrid seed that had been “saved” by farmers from a previous crop of the seed, in violation of the shrink wrap-type license on the original Pioneer seed they had purchased at JEM. In Monsanto-Canada, a farmer saved and replanted glyphosate-resistant canola seed from a field he claimed was contaminated by “GMO” pollen from neighboring fields.
In McRO, Inc. d.b.a. Planet Blue v. Namco Bandai Games America, civ. No. CV 12-10322-GW (FFMx) (C. D. Cal., Sept. 22, 2014), the granted Defendant’s motion for judgment on the pleadings that US Patent numbers 6,307,576 and 6,611, 278, were invalid as attempts to claim an abstract idea. (A copy of the decision is available at the end of this post.)
The claims were directed to automatically animated lip synchronization and facial expression of 3D animated characters. The court read the claims in view of the admitted state of the prior art and located a single “point of novelty”: “[T]he idea of using rules, including timing rules, to automate the process of generating keyframes.” “So what the claim adds to the prior art is the use of rules, rather than artists to set the morph weights and transitions between phonemes [e.g., the change in the shape of the lips as words are spoken.]”
It was Mayo redux with a vengeance in the September 23, 2014 decision in Genetic Technologies Ltd. v. Laboratory Corp. of Amer. Holdings et al., Civil Action No. 12-1736-LPS-CJB (D. Del. 2014). Magistrate Judge Burke released an opinion invalidating claim 1 of Genetic Technologies U.S. Patent No. 7,615,342 as claiming non-patentable subject matter under s. 101 that could have been stenciled from the PTO s.101 Guidelines. Claim 1 was directed to a method to predict potential sprinting, strength or power performance in a human. The claim had an “analyzing step” to look for variations in the ACTN3 gene of the human, a “detecting step” to determine the presence of two 577R alleles at a loci of the ACTN3 protein and (c) a “predicting step” positively associating two copies of the allele with the performance elements.
Citing Mayo v. Prometheus and PerkinElmer v. Intema copiously, the correlation between the alleles and athletic performance was held to be a natural law and the analyzing and detecting steps were the “employment of … routine conventional process[es]” that were not sufficient to transform an unpatentable law of nature into a patent-eligible application of such a law. The “predicting step” was dismissed as “’no more than an instruction [to] apply the [natural] law.’ Prometheus, 132 S Ct at 1297.”