Harness IP CEO Ray Millien recently participated in IPWatchdog LIVE, the first in-person conference hosted by the IP news source since the pandemic began. Millien was part of a panel discussion that addressed the question, “Is the Federal Circuit Killing Software Patents?”
During the panel discussion, the group resoundingly agreed that, yes, the Federal Circuit is killing software patents. Millien elaborated on this point:
I’m going to say something controversial: All of the hardware needed for autonomous driving has already been invented. What is preventing us from having a truly autonomous car? Software. How else can all of that data be processed so the car knows whether an obstruction is a pothole or a three-year old? We’ve all been doing that since we first started driving at the age of 16 and it takes a millisecond in the brain. We cannot solve that problem without software, but once someone solves that problem, it’s an abstract idea.
Millien cited a recent article he wrote for IPWatchdog that used data to show 63% of U.S. utility patents issued between January and June 2021 were software-related. At the same time, software patents accounted for roughly 40% of Chinese patents and less than 50% of EPO granted patents.
To put the larger problem in a context that more people can relate to, Millien once again turned to autonomous driving, urging the audience to focus their attention on what IP rights mean for inventors, scientists, and engineers working to find solutions to the software problems facing the industry. The huge sums of money auto companies spend to obtain software patents also represents an investment in their employees and a way for those employees to earn a living and support their families. Limiting the patents companies can obtain could lead to fewer opportunities for employee growth and prosperity.
As Millien puts it, “We may represent X company or Y company, but we have to remember the people behind these companies.”