One reason intellectual property specialists are so leery of business-method patents: It is almost impossibly difficult to document the so-called prior art, or what already existed when an inventor came up with a purportedly new idea. Finding evidence that a thing never existed — such as a chemical compound — is, as a rule, considerably easier than proving no one ever had a method of doing something.
US Representative Howard Berman, a California Democrat who has for years tried to change the patent process, refuses to take a yes-or-no position on business-method patents. But Berman has said ”we must pay attention to those who raise concerns about whether business method patents are being issued for obvious inventions, or for inventions determined to be novel, based on inadequate information about prior inventions.”
Robert Holleyman, president of the Business Software Alliance, said the group will ask Congress to overturn an appeals court ruling that allows damage awards to be based on a product’s global sales rather than those in the United States. The ruling upheld the calculation of a $521 million jury verdict against Microsoft Corp., the world’s largest software maker.
Representatives Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, and Howard Berman, a California Democrat, on June 8 introduced a bill that seeks to curb patent lawsuits and change the way US patents are issued and reviewed. A proposal to limit damages to US sales, discussed earlier in hearings before both the House and Senate, wasn’t included in the bill.