Trollslayers

On 10 April, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) invalidated key aspects of patent-troll Personal Audio’s “podcasting patent” following a petition for review spearheaded by the Electronic Frontier Foundation with assistance from the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society and other pro bono attorneys. Personal Audio had been using the patent to threaten podcasters with lawsuits unless a settlement was paid out.

ORDERED that Petitioner has shown by a preponderance of the evidence that claims 31–35 of U.S. Patent No. 8,112,504 B2 are unpatentable…

A key aspect of the successful petition was the evidence of “prior art” – podcasts or podcast-like productions that pre-dated the patent – which were researched in part through crowdsourcing.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) invalidated key claims in the so-called “podcasting patent” today after a petition for review from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)—a decision that significantly curtails the ability of a patent troll to threaten podcasters big and small…In petitions filed with Patent Office, EFF showed that Personal Audio did not invent anything new before it filed its patent application, and, in fact, other people were podcasting for years previously.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Held: Genes are products of nature

Today the US Supreme Court rules that there cannot be patents on genomic DNA information (PDF – 139kb), only modified DNA products like cDNA. Note that the decision was effectively unanimous, the opinion was written by Thomas, and Scalia’s concurrent opinion is essentially an admission of ignorance in the specialty field. I have not had time to read the full opinion, but at initial review this seems like a very reasonable result. Naturally occurring DNA sequences are, well, natural. Sequences modified with intent may be patent eligible. It will be interesting to see in the future if discovery of naturally occurring sequences that are identical to patented sequences modified naively to match a natural variant will invalidate patents.

Myriad’s DNA claim falls within the law of nature exception.Myriad’s principal contribution was uncovering the precise location and genetic sequence of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes…Myriad did not create or alter either the genetic information encoded in the BCRA1 and BCRA2 genes or the genetic structure of the DNA. It found an important and useful gene, but groundbreaking, innovative, or even brilliant discovery does not by itself satisfy the §101 inquiry…Myriad’s patent descriptions highlight the problem with its claims: They detail the extensive process of discovery, but extensive effort alone is insufficient to satisfy §101’s demands. Myriad’s claims are not saved by the fact that isolating DNA from the human genome severs the chemical bonds that bind gene molecules together. – SCOTUS (PDF -139kb)