The US Supreme Court decision in Alice Corp v CLS Bank (Alice v CLS) was published a year ago. It is a hugely significant case in relation to computer implemented inventions. It raised as many questions as it answered about the requirements for a computer implemented invention, and particularly those for business methods, to be patentable in the US.
The broad conclusion at the time was that after this case it would be more difficult to obtain patents for computer implemented inventions in the US. One year on from the decision, not surprisingly, we are still being asked by our clients and contacts – what are the chances of getting a US patent for our computer implemented invention?
Patent search company PatentSeekers has provided us with statistics relating to US patents granted for computer implemented inventions in the year before the Alice decision and the year after. Patent Offices classify inventions into subject matter classes. The US patent classification (USPC) class 705 is the notorious catch-all ‘data processing’ class for computer implemented inventions. The US patent classification class system was recently replaced by the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) System, which is a partnership between the European and US Patent Offices. G06Q is the closest CPC equivalent to US class 705. PatentSeekers therefore carried out a search of the old USPC OR new CPC equivalent as the best measure to capture slow-to-grant patents classified under the USPC only and quick-to-grant patents classified under the CPC only.
What was the result? In the year before Alice v CLS, there were 12,885 US patents granted in either of these classes and in the year after 9,459 granted US patents. The number of US patents granted in this space has dropped since Alice v CLS, but only by around a quarter and US patents are still being granted in large numbers in this space.
We carried out a similar exercise for one of our larger clients and found that the numbers of their granted US patents for computer implemented inventions were exactly the same before Alice as afterwards.
We think it is less relevant to compare figures for the many years preceding Alice as the general trend has been for significant increase year-on-year in the numbers of granted US patents for computer implemented inventions.
Of course, there are many factors that might have led to a reduction in granted US patents in this space other than the patentability test that is set out in Alice. However, based on the numbers alone, the answer to the question “What are the chances of getting a US patent for our computer-implemented invention?” is clear – they are, at worst, only slightly less likely now than before Alice v CLS.
This article is for general information only. Its content is not a statement of the law on any subject and does not constitute advice. Please contact Reddie & Grose LLP for advice before taking any action in reliance on it.