The Patent and Trademark Office announced on Jan. 3 plans “to enhance the quality of software-related patents.” 78 Fed. Reg. 292 (Jan. 3, 2012).
The notice described the formation of a “Software Partnership,” similar to cooperative efforts between the agency and the members of the patent community with specific technology expertise. The PTO scheduled roundtable meetings Feb. 12 in Stanford, Calif., and Feb. 27 in New York City, to kick off the partnership discussion.
These initial meetings will focus on “improving the clarity of claim boundaries for software-related claims that use functional language,” inasmuch as “the elements of software are often defined using functional language.” The notice identified a number of questions generally related to means-plus-function claiming under 35 U.S.C. §112.
The agency also asked stakeholders to make suggestions of additional topics that the software partnership will address at future events.
The PTO will also accept written comments on these two items, due March 15.
Finally, the notice said that the office will soon be publishing a “Request for Comments on Preparation of Patent Applications.” The text of the notice indicated that the PTO means to make that request more broadly and not only as it would apply to software patent applications. However, it allowed interested parties to make oral presentations at the upcoming roundtable discussions “to the extent that the topics pertain to software-related inventions.”
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