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Abstract Ideas Are Not Patentable

A federal court recently issued a decision establishing that “abstract ideas” do not enjoy patent protection. In Accenture Global Services, et al. v. Guidewire Software, Inc. the United States District Court for District of Delaware found that a patent for computer software for insurance-related businesses was invalid. Therefore, Accenture did not enjoy exclusive patent-holder rights for the software. Do you own patents that relate to the software industry? Are you looking to secure and protect your exclusive patents rights for an invention? At the Law Offices of Salar Atrizadeh, an attorney with experience and knowledge in the changing field of patent law can help explain the latest developments in this area to protect your intellectual property interests.

What Is Patent Law?

According to Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution, Congress has the power to regulate “science and useful arts” by granting exclusive rights for such inventions and creations. Under this constitutional authority, Congress enacted Title 35 of the United States Code as the federal body relating to patents. A “patent” is a set of exclusive rights granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office to an inventor for a limited period of time. In return, the inventor makes the underlying patented invention available to the public, which promotes intellectual growth and new developments.

How Did the Accenture Case Affect Patent Protections?

In this recent case, the district court explained that the computer program at issue was nothing more than an “abstract idea,” which does not meet the high standard for patentability. Accenture held a patent for software that insurance companies could use to store, manipulate, and transmit data. Accenture sued Guidewire in federal court arguing that Guidewire had infringed on Accenture’s exclusive patent rights over the software. The district court found that the software was only meant for organizing data, and this lacked the specificity necessary to qualify for patent protection. Accenture appealed the district court’s decision, explaining that the complexity and high level of detail in the insurance software system effectively advanced the software industry. Accordingly, Accenture argued this was enough to secure patent protection. Nonetheless, the appellate court ruled in favor of Guidewire, finding that the “generic computer” software did not constitute a separate and distinct patentable concept or idea. The court explained that an abstract idea that is sufficiently limited to its underlying concept could qualify for patent protection, but in this case Accenture’s patent did not meet this standard. In a dissenting opinion, Chief Judge Randall Rader explained that although the court had previously held that abstract ideas are in fact not patentable, this new software was innovative enough to be patentable. The deep divide in the federal court, coupled with the unintelligible standard set forth in recent cases, may suggest that the U.S. Supreme Court will soon be called to make a defining ruling on the matter.

At the Law Offices of Salar Atrizadeh, we guide our clients in legal matters regarding all aspects of intellectual property law by using extensive knowledge and skills to create innovative solutions to protect your property. Please contact us today to set up a confidential consultation.