These are uncertain times in patent law. Court decisions are striking at the heart of some of the most fundamental aspects of patent law—including the criteria for determining obviousness and patentable subject matter. The U.S. Supreme Court's 2007 KSR decision expanded the grounds upon which examiners can reject some claims as obvious, and generally encouraged examiners to more carefully scrutinize patent applications. In Bilski, the Court raised the bar for patentable subject matter, ruling that “machine” and “transformation” are the sole indicators of patent eligibility in a process claim. Allowance rates at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) have greatly decreased in recent years and the PTO has increased the burden on applicants wishing to appeal. On Capitol Hill, debates rage on other fundamental changes to patent statutes that have been in place for nearly 60 years.
Rates of allowance were recently released for the first half of 2009. The good news for Venable clients is that, notwithstanding the turmoil, the allowance rate for applications prosecuted by Venable’s patent team remains well above average. In the first half of 2009, as the patent allowance rate at the USPTO plummeted to 41%, Venable patent attorneys and agents maintained an allowance rate of 62% for Venable clients and obtained 364 issued patents across a broad range of technology, including biotechnology, nanotechnology, semiconductors, computer hardware and structure. For a fifth straight year, since 2005, the rate of allowance for Venable-prosecuted patent applications has averaged at least 20% higher than the national average. Venable’s deep bench of patent attorneys and agents is committed to maintaining this important advantage in the future.