USPTO issues its eight millionth patent
A milestone was reached yesterday as the US Patent and Trademark Office issued its eight millionth patent. The seven millionth patent was issued in 2006 and the six millionth in 1999; patents are being issued faster than ever – it took 75 years, from 1836 to 1911, to issue the first million patents. Patent number 8,000,000 is for a "Visual Prosthesis Apparatus" designed to improve visual perception in those who have gone blind due to retinal degeneration.
On the same day, an article on the PatentlyO law blog reported that the Court of Appeals of the US Federal Circuit has upheld a ruling which could render a range of broadly written software patents invalid post the Supreme Court's Bilski ruling.
A company, CyberSource, had patented a process of validating online credit card purchases using IP address information, which it would use as part of a fraud check by mapping which different credit cards were used at an IP address and raising a warning when, for example, numerous cards were being used at one address.
The patent had two claims being asserted in court, one for the process and one for the process in Beauregard form. Beauregard claims can be characterised as the claimed process being performed on a computer. The court affirmed that the computer based claim was invalid on the grounds that the patent holder could not distinguish between the process and process being performed on a computer and that being so, following other precedents, it was an unpatentable mental process.
The decision should give a more solid line of defence against patents which are unpatentable processes restricted to being performed on a computer, but it may be small relief with more and more patents being issued every year.