The United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) excludes patenting of “transitory propagating signals” in computer claims. See In re Nuijten, 500 F.3d 1346, 1356-57 (Fed. Cir. 2007) (transitory embodiments are not directed to statutory subject matter). Therefore, patent examiners (using the broadest reasonable interpretation of a patent claim) will often reject computer media claims when it could include a transitory signal. Luckily, there is a USPTO policy set forth January 26, 2010 to allow (in most cases) the patent applications the introduction of the limitation “non-transitory” to overcome this limitation (even when the specification is silent to the matter). The text of the memo is reproduced below:
Subject Matter Eligibility of Computer Readable MediaUSPTO policy set forth January 26, 2010
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is obliged to give claims their broadest reasonable interpretation consistent with the specification during proceedings before the USPTO. See In re Zletz, 893 F.2d 319(Fed. Cir. 1989) (during patent examination the pending claims must be interpreted as broadly as their terms reasonably allow). The broadest reasonable interpretation of a claim drawn to a computer readable medium (also called machine readable medium and other such variations) typically covers forms of non-transitory tangible media and transitory propagating signals per se in view of the ordinary and customary meaning of computer readable media, particularly when the specification is silent. See MPEP 2111.01. When the broadest reasonable interpretation of a claim covers a signal per se, the claim must be rejected under 35 U.S.C. § 101 as covering non-statutory subject matter. See In re Nuijten, 500 F.3d 1346, 1356-57 (Fed. Cir. 2007) (transitory embodiments are not directed to statutory subject matter) and Interim Examination Instructions for Evaluating Subject Matter Eligibility Under 35 U.S.C. § 101, Aug. 24, 2009; p. 2.
The USPTO recognizes that applicants may have claims directed to computer readable media that cover signals per se, which the USPTO must reject under 35 U.S.C. 8 101 as covering both non-statutory subject matter and statutory subject matter. In an effort to assist the patent community in overcoming a rejection or potential rejection under 35 U.S.C. 4 101 in this situation, the USPTO suggests the following approach. A claim drawn to such a computer readable medium that covers both transitory and non-transitory embodiments may be amended to narrow the claim to cover only statutory embodiments to avoid a rejection under 35 U.S.C. §101 by adding the limitation “non-transitory” to the claim. Cf: Animals -Patentability, 1077 Off. Gaz. Pat. Office 24 (April 21, 1987) (suggesting that applicants add the limitation “non-human” to a claim covering a multi-cellular organism to avoid a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 5 101). Such an amendment would typically not raise the issue of new matter, even when the specification is silent because the broadest reasonable interpretation relies on the ordinary and customary meaning that includes signals per se. The limited situations in which such an amendment could raise issues of new matter occur, for example, when the specification does not support a non-transitory embodiment because a signal per se is the only viable embodiment such that the amended claim is impermissibly broadened beyond the supporting disclosure. See, e.g., Gentry Gallery, Inc. v. Berkline Corp., 134 F.3d 1473 (Fed. Cir. 1998).