Patentierbarkeit von Software in den USA

 Link zu grips 3/2016 „Software-Patente“

Gesetzliche Bestimmungen

Das amerikanische Patentgesetz ist in § 101 sehr allgemein, was die Definition einer patentierbaren Erfindung betrifft:

“Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefor…”.

Somit ist der gesetzliche Rahmen sehr weit gesteckt. Es gibt keinen zum europäischen Patentrecht vergleichbaren Gesetzesartikel über den Ausschluss von Computerprogrammen.

Supreme Court

Allerdings schränkt die Rechtsprechung den sehr weiten gesetzlichen Rahmen für patentierbare Erfindungen ein. So hatte der Supreme Court 1981 in „Diamond v. Diehr“ entschieden, dass auch mathematische Algorithmen, natürliche Phänomene und abstrakte Ideen vom Patentschutz ausgeschlossen sind. Damit wollte das Gericht sicherstellen, dass sich niemand ein Monopol errichten kann für ein Prinzip, das alle möglichen technischen Lösungen umfasst („preemption“).

Auch mit diesem Grundsatzurteil wird aber nicht ausgeschlossen, dass Software patentiert werden kann.

Mit dem Urteil „Alice Corp v. CLS Banks“ im Jahr 2014 ist ersichtlich geworden, wie der Supreme Court das Verbot des Schutzes von „abstrakten Ideen“ in der Praxis anwenden will.

Die strittige Erfindung betraf ein Verfahren, um das Erfüllungsrisiko bei finanziellen Transaktionen zwischen zwei Parteien zu reduzieren. Eines der vier umstrittenen Patente war das Patent US 5,970,479. Der Anspruch 1 dieses Patents lautete:

1. A computer-based data processing system to enable the
formulation of customized multi-party risk management
contracts having a future time of maturity, the system
comprising:
at least one stakeholder input means by which ordering
stakeholders can input contract data representing at
least one offered contract in at least one predetermined
phenomenon, each said phenomenon having a range of
future outcomes, and said contract data specifying
entitlements due at maturity for said range of future
outcomes, and a consideration due to a counter-party
stake holder;
at least one counter-party stakeholder input means by
which at least one counter-party stakeholder can input
registering data, independent of said stakeholder entering
said contract data, as to a likelihood of each
outcome in said range of future outcomes for one or
more of said predetermined phenomena;
a data storage means; linked with each said stakeholder
input means and linked with each said counter-party
stakeholder input means to store said contract data and
said registering data; and
data processing means, linked with the data storage
means, for pricing and matching contracts from said
contract data and said registering data, said pricing
including calculating a counter-consideration derived
from said likelihoods and said entitlements, and said
matching including comparing said consideration and
said counter-consideration to match an offered contract
with at least one of said counter-party stakeholders.

Weiter enthielt das oben genannte Patent auch einen Verfahrensanspruch folgender Art:

18. A method to enable the formulation of customized
multi-party risk management contracts having a future time
of maturity, the method comprising the steps of:
(a) inputting into data processing apparatus, by at least
one ordering stakeholder input means thereof, contract
data representing at least one offered contract in at least
(a)    one predetermined phenomenon having a range of
future outcomes, and said contract data specifying
entitlements due at maturity for the range of future
outcomes, and consideration due to a counter-party
stake holder;
(b) inputting into said data processing apparatus, by at
least one counter-party stakeholder input means
thereof, counter-party registering data, independent of
at least one ordering stakeholder entering contract data,
as to a likelihood of each outcome in said range of
future outcomes for one or more of said predetermined
phenomena;
(c) storing, in a data storage means of said data processing
apparatus linked with each said stakeholder input
means and linked with each said counter-party stakeholder
input means, said contract data and said registering
data; and
(d) pricing and matching at least one of the offered
contracts by data processing means of the data processing
apparatus linked with said data storage means, said
pricing and matching comprising the steps, for each
offered contract, of:
(i) calculating a counter-consideration derived from
said likelihoods and said entitlements;
(ii) comparing said consideration and said counter-
consideration; and
(iii) matching a contract on the basis of said comparison.


Das oberste Gericht befand, dass die Ansprüche im Wesentlichen eine abstrakte Idee schützen, ohne ein zusätzliches erfinderisches Konzept. Es wandte dabei den zweistufigen Test an, den es in seinem Urteil „Mayo v. Prometheus“ (2012) aufgestellt hatte:

1.    Enthält der Anspruch eine abstrakte Idee wie z.B. ein Algorithmus, ein Rechenverfahren oder allgemein Prinzipien?

2.    Falls ja, ist zu prüfen, ob der Anspruch zusätzlich zur abstrakten Idee ein „erfinderisches Konzept“ enthält. Falls ja, kann die Erfindung vorbehaltlich der übrigen Patentierungsanforderungen (Neuheit, Nicht-naheliegen, Klarheit etc.) geschützt werden.

Prüfungsrichtlinien

Aufgrund des Urteils „Alice Corp v. CLS Banks“ sowie weiteren neueren Entscheidungen des Supreme Courts zur Patentierbarkeit (Patent Eligibility) hat das US Patentamt (USPTO) im Jahr 2014 die „Interim Guidance on Patent Subject Matter Eligibility“ herausgegeben. Diese soll den Prüfern und der Öffentlichkeit aufzeigen, wie die Prüfung auf Patentierbarkeit durchgeführt werden soll.

Gemäss diesen Richtlinien ist in einem ersten Schritt in altbekannter Weise zu prüfen, ob der Anspruch auf ein Verfahren, eine Maschine, ein Erzeugnis oder auf eine Zusammensetzung von Materie gerichtet ist. Falls dies zu bejahen ist, werden im Schritt 2 die folgenden neuen Tests angewendet:

Step 2 is the two-part analysis from Alice Corp. (also called the Mayo test) for claims directed to laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas (the judicially recognized exceptions). This step is represented in diamonds
(2A) and (2B) and is the subject of the Interim Eligibility Guidance.
In Step 2A, determine whether the claim is directed to a law of nature, a natural phenomenon, or an abstract idea (judicial exceptions). If no, the claim is eligible and examination should continue for patentability. If yes, proceed to Step 2B to analyze whether the claim as a whole amounts to significantly more than the exception.
• “Directed to” means the exception is recited in the claim, i.e., the claim sets forth or describes the exception. See Part I.A.1 of the Interim Eligibility Guidance.
• If the claim when viewed as a whole clearly does not seek to “tie up” any judicial exception, use the “streamlined analysis” discussed in Part I.B.3 of the Interim Eligibility Guidance.
• Examples of the types of concepts that the courts have found to be laws of nature, natural phenomena, or abstract ideas are provided in Parts I.A.2 and IV of the Interim Eligibility Guidance.
• If the claim recites a nature-based product limitation, the markedly different characteristics analysis is used to evaluate whether the claim is directed to a “product of nature” that falls under the law of nature and natural phenomenon exceptions. To determine whether the markedly different characteristics analysis is needed, and how to perform this analysis, see Part I.A.3 of the Interim Eligibility Guidance.
In Step 2B, determine whether any element, or combination of elements, in the claim is sufficient to ensure that the claim as a whole amounts to significantly more than the judicial exception. If no, the claim is ineligible, and should be rejected under 35 U.S.C. § 101 as being drawn to ineligible subject matter, using form paragraphs 7.05 [revised] and 7.05.015 [new]. If yes, the claim is eligible. In either case, examination should continue for patentability.
• The additional elements should be considered both individually and as an ordered combination.
Individual elements when viewed on their own may not appear to add significantly more, but when
viewed in combination may amount to significantly more than the exception.
• The Supreme Court has identified a number of considerations for determining whether a claim with
additional elements amounts to significantly more than the judicial exception itself. Examples of these
considerations, and how they are applied, are provided in Parts I.B.1 and III of the Interim Eligibility
Guidance.
• Consider each claim separately based on the particular elements recited therein – claims do not
automatically rise or fall with similar claims in an application.
• If a claim is directed to a plurality of exceptions, conduct the eligibility analysis for one of the exceptions. Additional elements that satisfy Step 2B for one exception will likely satisfy Step 2B for all exceptions in a claim. On the other hand, if the claim fails under Step 2B for one exception, the claim is ineligible, and no further eligibility analysis is needed.


Neuere Rechtsprechung des CAFC

Seit dem „Alice“-Urteil hat das Berufungsgericht in Patentstreitfällen (CAFC) die meisten Angriffe auf fehlende Patentierbarkeit (Patent Ineligibility) bestätigt. Ein erstes Mal zugunsten des Patents wurde jedoch im Fall  „DDR Holdings v. Hotels.com“ entschieden.