Posts Tagged ‘intellectual property’

USPTO s.101 Guidelines – How to “Eviscerate Patent Law”

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

On March 19th, the USPTO released 93 slides as training materials to help Examiners navigate the lengthy ”Guidelines for Subject Matter Eligibility Analysis of Claims Reciting or Involving Laws of Nature,” et al. (A copy of the slides is available at the end of this post.) Although multiple law review articles and blog posts will surely be written about various features of these Guidelines and Training Materials, I would like to focus, fairly briefly I hope, on the two most ambitious, and egregious aspects of these materials.

The first is the unprecedented (literally) expansion of the definition of “natural product” to require that the claimed natural product must be structurally different from the product as it occurs in its natural source, and not simply be functionally changed or improved. See, e.g., slides 48-56. This heightened patent-eligibility requirement appears to have been extracted from Chakrabarty, which described the altered bacterium as having “markedly different characteristics from any found in nature, and one having the potential for significant utility.” However, I don’t see any requirement that the new bacterium be markedly structurally different than its naturally occurring cousins. In Myriad, the isolated genomic DNA was unquestionably structurally different, but the Court based its holding on its opinion that its primary data storing and transmitting properties were unchanged. The Court minimized the import of the structural changes: “Myriad’s claims…[do not] rely in any way on the chemical changes that result from the isolation of a particular section of DNA.”


USPTO Guidelines Blur “Natural” And “Novel” Products

Friday, March 21st, 2014

I seldom comment on fellow bloggers’ posts, but Kevin Noonan’s recent article in PatentDocs deserves some attention. He basically has taken the recent PTO Guidelines to their “logical” extreme. The Guidelines contain an example that suggests that the Myriad ruling should be applied to “natural products” other than isolated pieces of genomic DNA. In Kevin’s view the roof has fallen in on isolated, purified natural products of any kind. In other words, if a substance like insulin or quinine occurs in nature so that its isolation does not change its chemical formula, it is not patent eligible. To be fair, the example directs examiners to reject claims to natural products, such as “purified amazonic acid” since “there is no structural difference between the purified acid in the claim and the acid in the leaves [of the tree from which it is obtained].”

That simplistic standard, if taken to its extreme would, as Kevin writes, render almost any purified natural product patent ineligible. But there are some brakes that can be applied to halt this runaway train of rejections. As Hal Wegner has argued in detail, In re Bergy, 596 F.2d 952 (1979) was never vacated or reversed by the Supreme Court when it took up Chakrabarty. After the holding of Bergy was reaffirmed by the CCPA in a consolidated decision with Chakrabarty, the Commissioner sought certiorari, and the writ was granted as to both cases. Before the decision, Bergy was dismissed as moot “leaving only Chakrabarty for decision.” 447 U.S. at 306. Judge Lourie’s analysis of the posture of Bergy in the August 16th Myriad decision (fn. 11) is just incorrect. Bergy is precedential; the second CCPA decision was not vacated by the Supreme Court.


USPTO Patent Eligibility Guidelines – A Step Too Far For Natural Products?

Friday, March 7th, 2014

Guest Post from Paul Cole, Lucas & Co., UK

New Prometheus/Myriad guidance appeared on the USPTO website on 4March under the weighty title 2014 Procedure For Subject Matter Eligibility Analysis Of Claims Reciting Or Involving Laws Of Nature/Natural Principles, Natural Phenomena, And/Or Natural Products. A profound, and it is submitted unjustified, change is introduced in Example B of that guidance which concerns chemical substances purified from nature.

In 1900 Dr Jokichi Takamine succeeded in isolating and purifying adrenalin in fine crystalline form from the adrenal glands of sheep and oxen, for which he was granted US Patent 730176 in June 1903. The new product was said to be storage stable when dry and when injected into an animal to bring about a rise in blood pressure. A number of product claims were granted of which the following is representative:

“A substance possessing the herein described physiological characteristics and reactions of the suprarenal glands, having approximately the formula C10H15NO3 and having an alkaline reaction.”


PTO Releases Guidelines On Patenting “Natural Phenomena And Natural Products”

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

On March 4, 2014, Andrew Hirschfield, the Deputy Commissioner For Patent Examination Policy, released a “Memorandum” entitled “Guidance for Subject Matter Eligibility Analysis Of Claims Reciting Or Involving Laws of Nature/Natural Principles, Natural Phenomena, And/Or Natural Products” in view of the Myriad and Mayo (“Prometheus”) Decisions. (A copy is available at the end of this post.) The Guidance is intended to “assist examiners in determining whether a claim reflects a significant difference from what exists in nature and thus is [101] eligible, or whether a claim is effectively drawn to something that is naturally occurring, like the claims found ineligible by the Supreme Court in Myriad.” The Guidelines include a number of examples, including the analysis that is to be followed in deciding if they meet or do not meet the exceptions to s. 101.

The Guidelines do not apply to the examination of claims reciting an abstract idea, which are to be analyzed using MPEP c. 2106(I). However, the examples in these Guidelines include the analysis that Judge Lourie applied to conclude that claim 1 of the Myriad ‘857 patent was patent-ineligible as an abstract idea. Interestingly, these Guidelines do not include an analysis of claim 2 of the ‘857 patent which was directed to a method for diagnosing a predisposition to develop cancer by comparing the sequence of a subject’s BRACA1 DNA to a reference sequence and determining if there were alterations in the subject’s DNA sequence. The Office seems to want to ignore not only that “comparing and concluding claim” but also do not provide an analysis of any simple “If marker A, the disorder B” claim, such as the claim analyzed, and found wanting by Justice Breyer in the “Metabolite Dissent.” (Judge Rader’s criticism of that “dissent” is reproduced in my recent post noting the 5th birthday of this blog.)