USPTO Demands EFF Censor Its Comments On Patentable Subject Matter

As you know, last year the Supreme Court made a very important ruling in the Alice v. CLS Bank case, in which it basically said that merely doing something on a general purpose computer didn’t automatically make it patentable. This has resulted in many courts rejecting patents and the USPTO being less willing to issue patents, based on that guidance. The USPTO sought to push out new “guidance” to its examiners taking the ruling into account. Soon after the Alice ruling, it issued some “Preliminary Examination Instructions.” However, it then issued the so-called 2014 Interim Guidance on Subject Matter Eligibility and sought public comment through March 16 of this year.

Plenty of folks did comment, including the EFF. However, the USPTO apparently was offended at parts of the EFF’s comment submission, claiming that it was an “improper protest.” In response, the EFF refiled the comment, but redacted the part that the USPTO didn’t like. Here’s what page 5 of the document on the USPTO site looks like: However, EFF also added the following footnote (footnote 8) on page 6:

On April 2, 2015, the PTO contacted EFF to request that we remove a portion of these comments on the basis that they constituted an improper “protest.” We respectfully disagree that our comments were a protest under 35 U.S.C. § 122(c). Rather, our comments discussed a specific application to illustrate our broader points about the importance of applying Alice. Nevertheless, to ensure these comments are considered by the Office, we have redacted the relevant discussion in this revised version of our comments. Our original comments remain available to the public at: https://www.eff.org/files/2015/03/18/eff_comments_regarding_ interim_eligibility_guidance.pdf.

And, of course, if you go to that link, you get the full, unredacted version of the EFF’s filing.

As you can see by the full filing, the EFF filing isn’t some sort of improper protest. Rather it is a clear demonstration of how the USPTO does not appear to be living up to what the courts are saying in the wake of the Alice ruling. It is difficult to see what the USPTO was thinking in trying to silence the EFF’s comment. It is beyond ludicrous on multiple levels. First, it suggests a skin so thin at the USPTO that you can see right through it. Second, it suggests that the USPTO doesn’t want people to recognize that its guidance is problematic in light of what actual federal courts are saying. And, finally, it suggests (still) a complete lack of understanding of how the internet and freedom of expression works, thereby guaranteeing that the EFF’s complete dismantling of the USPTO’s guidelines will now get that much more attention…

Has anyone patented a method and system for self-inflicted shaming for being overly sensitive to someone pointing out your flaws?

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