On January 30, 2018, the USPTO quietly published a new revision (Revision 08.2017) to the Ninth Edition of the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP). The revision includes amendments to a number of chapters, including notably the guidance regarding subject matter eligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101. This includes changes in Chapter 2105 for living subject matter eligibility and Chapter 2106 for products of nature and software eligibility. The revision incorporates the contents of previous subject matter eligibility guidance documents that were provided on the “Subject Matter Eligibility” webpage of the USPTO. Although the MPEP does not have the force of law, unlike the CFR, patent examiners generally tend to follow the guidance provided in the MPEP. Accordingly, patent applicants dealing with Section 101 rejections should generally be starting with these revised MPEP chambers as a basis when crafting arguments to overcome such rejections.
Revised Chapter 2106 discusses the two-part Alice test including guidance regarding whether an invention falls under one of the statutory categories and whether an invention is directed to a judicial exception for an abstract idea. Of particular note, chapter 2106.05 provides expansive guidance for determining whether a claim amounts to something “significantly more” than an abstract idea. These “significantly more” arguments are often the best avenue for overcoming Section 101 rejections.