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PTAB Weighs In on Subject Matter Eligibility of Software Medium Claims in Rare Precedential Opinion

The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) at the USPTO recently issued a rare precedential opinion in Ex Parte Mewherter that addresses subject matter eligibility of computer program product claims under 35 U.S.C. § 101. The PTAB affirmed the examiner’s rejection of a claim that recited a “machine readable storage medium” as being directed to non-statutory subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101. In particular, the PTAB held that the term “storage” in “machine readable storage medium” did not save the claim from encompassing non-statutory signals, carrier waves, and the like. In light of this decision, patent applicants should continue to include the modifier “non-transitory” in software medium claims to avoid § 101 issues. Explicit support for the term “non-transitory” can be provided in the specification at the application drafting stage. Claims to a “non-transitory” medium can also be properly supported even when the specification does not expressly include the term, per a USPTO Official Gazette Notice that offers guidance on this issue. Patent applicants should also continue to provide written description support for propagating signals per se, as other jurisdictions such as Europe consider such embodiments to be patent eligible.

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