The patent law landscape is constantly shifting and evolving. As we move into 2024, there are several key developments and trends that companies and inventors should be aware of when it comes to patenting and legally protecting their creations. Here’s what we’re looking for on the IP horizon.
The Patent Eligibility Restoration Act
Judicial exceptions to patent eligibility have created a hot button issue in IP cases across the country, and the proposed Patent Eligibility Restoration Act seeks to address this problem. This bipartisan bill, recently drafted and introduced by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, seeks to overturn previous Supreme Court decisions that restricted patent eligibility for certain types of inventions in various fields.
According to a statement by Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), one of the co-authors of the bill, “Due to a series of Supreme Court decisions, patent eligibility law in the United States has become confused, constricted and unclear in recent years. This has led to inconsistent case decisions, uncertainty in innovation and investment communities, and unpredictable business outcomes.”
The Patent Eligibility Restoration Act, he says, aims to restore “patent eligibility to important inventions across many fields while also resolving legitimate concerns over the patenting of mere ideas, the purported discovery of which already exists in nature, and social and cultural content that everyone agrees is beyond the scope of the patent system.”
This legislation has the potential to greatly expand patent eligibility, especially for inventions in technical fields like AI, biotech and computer software. While the bill faces criticisms about perpetuating uncertainty, it represents a push toward stronger patent rights. The fate of the Patent Eligibility Restoration Act is still uncertain, but it foreshadows further attempts to reshape the patent eligibility landscape. Companies should watch out for new proposals and changes that may emerge in the coming months.
As AI systems become more sophisticated at autonomously generating novel innovations, questions around patenting AI-created inventions will persist in 2024. While current law requires human inventors to be named on patents, there is debate about expanding this to accommodate all things AI.
Some argue that advanced AI should qualify as an inventor if it exhibits the necessary “conception” of an invention. However, legal challenges remain around defining AI inventors and handling patent ownership. In 2024, we’ll likely see continued discussion around policies for AI-generated inventions, but no definitive changes yet.
Tech companies utilizing AI for R&D should follow developments in patent law and strategy as they relate to these inventions. While uncertainty remains, this will be an emerging area to watch.
Impacts of the PREVAIL Act
The PREVAIL Act seeks to impose major reforms on Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) processes for challenging patent validity. Key provisions include higher standards of proof, limits on repeated challenges and restrictions on who can file petitions.
In 2024, we may start to see the impacts proposed by these changes that would make it harder to invalidate patents through the PTAB. For patent owners, the PREVAIL Act, in theory, offers stronger protection against validity attacks. But anyone accused of patent infringement will lose one avenue to fight back against assertions.
Should the PREVAIL Act prevail with these changes, the interplay between the PTAB and federal court litigation will likely shift as well. Parties in patent disputes will need to factor in the new PTAB rules when plotting out defense strategies.
Continued Globalization of Patent Law
Navigating patent protection across key global markets like China, Europe and the U.S. will become more crucial. Companies will need to watch major patent jurisdictions for reforms that affect strategy and filing approaches.
At the same time, the tools for international patent filing will improve. The USPTO implemented the DOCX format for PCT applications, streamlining international filings. The Patent Prosecution Highway also continues expanding to speed up cross-border patent prosecution.
Applicants will be able to leverage these tools to build robust patent protection worldwide. Consulting with patent counsel experienced in major global markets will be key.
Patented Protection in 2024
Whether they remain part of the dynamic discussion or implemented as laws to shape the future of IP law, the patent landscape in 2024 will require close attention to key reforms and trends worldwide. Companies investing in IP protection need to track developments and adjust their patent strategies accordingly just as individual creators and inventors looking to safeguard their assets and, in turn, their profits.
Patents are insurance for your profits. At Patterson Thuente, we ensure that this remains something you can count on as legally defensible for your business strategy. Reach out to one of our experienced patent attorneys to help navigate this changing environment.