Editor’s Introduction: The following post is by Wayne Sobon, and is based on the remarks he made at the USPTO’s Patent Subject Matter Eligibility Roundtable on December 5, 2016. Mr. Sobon has over thirty years of experience as a patent attorney. He has served as chief IP counsel in several major corporations, as well as being an entrepreneur. He is a past president of AIPLA and recently served on the Patent Public Advisory Committee of the USPTO.
I’d like to go back to some first principles and history.
Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution neatly divided the promotion of, on the one hand:
- Science, the fields of knowledge and ideas, by securing exclusive rights to Authors of their Writings. Things like books and maps and charts.
- And the Useful Arts, where science and ideas are transformed into tools and actions in the world, by securing exclusive rights to Inventors of their Discoveries.
Basic ideas and science would remain free for all.
One of the first Congressional acts was the Patent Act of 1790, which granted patents to any persons that “have invented or discovered any useful Art, Manufacture, Engine, Machine or Device, or any improvement therein, not before known or used”, provided that the invention or discovery was deemed “sufficiently useful and important”.