Patent Office Issues New Examination Guidelines for Subject Matter Eligibility

On December 16, 2014, the United States Patent and Trademark Office published new guidelines for determining patent eligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101. These guidelines do not have the force of law, but nevertheless establish the specific procedures that the Examiners apply during examination of patent applications. These guidelines are effective immediately, supersede previous guidelines regarding nature-based products, and supplement previous guidelines regarding abstract ideas. Based on Supreme Court decisions, the new guidelines set forth an analytical framework that is designed to “promote[] examination efficiency and consistency across all technologies” and is particularly relevant for patents directed to natural products, software, and business methods.

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