The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is developing new guidelines that will govern the examination of patent applications on computer software inventions, the agency announced.
The guidelines are being developed in response to recent judicial decisions that suggest a trend toward increasing the eligibility of computer software-based innovations for protection under U.S. patent laws, while decreasing the availability of protection for certain aspects of computer programs under the copyright process, the PTO said. At the same time, the office announced that it is reconsidering its position in a number of pending appeals concerning software-related cases, including in re Beauregard, which involves a computer program stored on a computer readable medium such as a floppy disk.
"The PTO must keep its practices consistent with judicial interpretations of the law. A failure to do so could jeopardize effective intellectual property protection for one of our nation's most important industries," said Nancy Linck, PTO's solicitor.
The computer software industry and its intellectual property is essential to our nation's economy. In 1992, the United States supplied 74 percent of the world's packaged software technology at a value of $47.6 billion. More than 5.5 million workers were employed in software and related industries, accounting for $325 billion or 5.6 percent of the Gross Domestic Product.