In the wake of the Supreme Court oral arguments in the Myriad “gene patent” case, most commentators are predicting that the Court will uphold the patent-eligibility of non-naturally occurring DNA sequences (such as cDNA), but will decide that even “isolated” forms of naturally occurring DNA cannot be patented under 35 USC § 101. I have heard some say that such a decision would “harmonize” U.S. patent law with European patent law, but that is not correct.
The USPTO and other patent offices around the world are studying the feasibility of the international harmonization of patent laws. As part of this initiative, the USPTO is soliciting stakeholders views on four key issues: (1) the grace period; (2) eighteen month publication; (3) the treatment of conflicting patent applications; and (4) prior user rights. As set forth in a recent Federal Register Notice, stakeholders can provide their views by answering an on-line questionnaire and by participating in a public hearing that will be held at the USPTO’s Alexandria, Virginia campus on March 21, 2013.
One of the many changes included in the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act relates to the date that a U.S. patent application is effective as prior art. While eliminating the Hilmer doctrine and giving prior art effect to U.S. patent applications as of their foreign priority dates might seem to be a step towards international harmonization, it actually may widen the gulf between the U.S. and the rest of world.