Here are the intellectual property trends that patent owners in technology-related fields need to consider for the coming year:
Patent rights strong in realm of ‘software controlling hardware’
In 2016 as the post-Alice patent quality clean-up continues, expect many patents will be struck down by the eligibility tests of Section 101. However, there are still strong opportunities for creating and enforcing patents in the software realm, specifically software controlling hardware.
USPTO guidance has consistently supported patents where there are ‘tangible results’—a concrete invention where a demonstrable effect occurs rather than an abstract idea. We have seen, and expect there to continue to be, significant technical analysis activity in support of licensing activity in this area. Example fields include mobile device power management, solid state drive controllers, near field communications & payment security, and navigation applications. Providing evidence of use in these areas can require sophisticated reverse engineering capabilities. These often demand an interdisciplinary approach combining software and hardware analysis, however, the efforts continue to be worthwhile for licensors. Don’t give up on “software patents”: Mine your portfolio carefully and seek external support if necessary.