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ABA urges U.S. Supreme Court to reject more stringent standard for determining patent validity

ABA urges U.S. Supreme Court to reject more stringent standard for determining patent validity

By John Glynn

CHICAGO, March 4, 2014 — The American Bar Association filed an amicus brief on Monday that requests that the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirm well-established law that a patent is appropriately definite when “a person of ordinary skill in the art would understand the bounds of the claim.”

The brief was filed in Nautilus, Inc. v. Biosig Instruments, Inc., a case in which the petitioner asserts that a more stringent standard should be adopted for determining patent validity. The ABA, in its brief, urges the Supreme Court to maintain the current balance between public notice and the practical realities of claim drafting.   

Calls for a more stringent standard for determining patent validity come amidst efforts on many levels – including from the White House and Congress – to enact reforms in the face of frivolous demands and lawsuits by non-practicing entities, commonly known as “patent trolls.” However, as noted in the ABA brief, changes to the Supreme Court’s existing standard will not address that issue.

“A well-functioning patent system demands claims that provide clear notice to the public. But it must also secure to inventors ‘who rely on the promise of the law to bring the invention forth’ the fruits of their labors,” the ABA brief reads.

Based on policy developed by the ABA Section of Intellectual Property Law’s 24,000 members, the brief urges: “Like other doctrines that seek to maintain what this Court has termed ‘the delicate balance’ between these competing interests, any test for determining whether a patent claim satisfies Section 112’s definiteness standard must adequately account for the imprecision inherent in reducing an invention to the form of words.”

The ABA brief further states that any benefits that could be derived from adopting the petitioner’s proposed, unnecessarily rigid, definiteness standard would be far outweighed by the resulting negative effects on both patent prosecution practice and claim construction practice before the district courts.

The ABA's amicus brief is available online here.

With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at and on Twitter @ABANews.

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