Issues to Consider before Asserting a Software Patent

Technology and Innovation Journal of the National Academy of Inventors

Software patents have garnered a lot of attention in recent years due, at least in part, to the proliferation of software-enabled devices, such as smartphones and tablets, and the use of software to control a range of devices from automobiles to kitchen appliances. Enforcement of software patents involves unique legal issues that should be considered before asserting a patent against an accused infringer. A primary issue to consider is whether the patent claims are still patent-eligible under recent changes in the law. Also, certain types of software patents are vulnerable to attack in U.S. Patent Office proceedings, but these proceedings are not available unless the patent owner takes step to provoke them. In addition, software inventions are often implemented as method patents, which have unique requirements and restrictions that should be considered. For example, steps of a method patent must all be performed by an accused infringer in the United States and must all be performed by the same entity (or under the direction or control of that entity). Where a software invention is not implemented as a method patent, pre-suit damages may not be available unless the patentee’s own products are properly marked with the patent number, and software has very different requirements for marking than more tangible products. A careful consideration of each of these issues is essential before moving forward with a lawsuit.

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“Issues to Consider before Asserting a Software Patent,” by Michael C. Greenbaum and S. Gregory Herrman was published in the Technology and Innovation Journal of the National Academy of Inventors (Vol. 21, No.3, August 2020). Reprinted with permission.