On Thursday in California, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is holding its Software Partnership meeting to discuss ways to clarify the language of software patents, similar to what we and others have recommended. Standard terms and glossaries can improve the quality of patent examination, benefitting patent holders and the patent system. We are pleased to be participating in that meeting and look forward to its outcomes.
We are also announcing our plan to provide electronic access to Microsoft’s prior art today. By making this information available to the USPTO and public, reviewers can better ensure issued patents reflect truly novel inventions. We are finalizing details and anticipate making that prior art accessible by December of this year.
The prior art access follows steps taken in March to provide a list of all the patents Microsoft owns via the ‘Patent Tracker’ tool. Increased transparency in patent ownership will help prevent gamesmanship by companies that seek to lie in wait and “hold up” companies, rather than participate in a well-functioning secondary market.
We believe all stakeholders of the U.S. patent system – including private companies – share a responsibility for taking steps to improve patent quality through better clarity of language, transparency of ownership and access to prior art. We urge other companies to join us in making this information available and continue their participation in the Software Partnership meetings.