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    美国最高法院复审比尔斯基案可能震动专利制度

    Published on 12 August 2009 @ 4:45 pm

    By for Intellectual Property Watch

    去年10月,一家美国上诉法院极大地改变了美国的专利法,从而在就何种发明能够受到专利保护这一问题上采取的做法更接近其他国家的标准。联邦上诉巡回法庭(Federal Circuit Court of Appeals,经常被称为美国的“专利法庭”)撤销了自己基本判例,并大幅减少了符合专利保护各类方法和程序。该判决使数千个专利前途未卜,其中就包括许多商业方法专利和金融方法专利。

    这个充满争议的判决将很快由美国最高法院复审。比尔斯基诉道尔案(Bilski v. Doll)的终审判决可能成为美国专利法的一个转折点,并产生世界性影响。

    “现在到了决定美国专利制度未来的关键时刻,” 卡登•穆沁•罗森曼律师事务所(Katten Muchin Rosenman)驻纽约办事处的合伙人山逊•海福高特(Samson Helfgott)说,“最高法院可能驳回联邦巡回法院的判决,也可能给专利制度套上紧箍咒。专利制度将无法再保护大量的创新,人们将寻找其他方式保护其创新。”

    该判决也可能影响其他国家对可获专利客体范围的裁决。“美国一直领导世界制定专利法,”海福高特说,“美国最高法院无论何时做出一项专利判决,其他国家都会跟进效仿。

    美国专利法对可获专利客体有着宽泛的定义,任何新而有用的“流程、机器、制造或物质组合”都是潜在的可获专利客体。

    然而,针对究竟什么类型的生产流程可以获得专利仍然有一些疑问?商业经营方法能否获得专利?金融方法和法律方法,比如套头商品期货或将股权期货置入某种闻名的税收规避所是否也可获得专利?

    早在1998年,联邦巡回法庭给出了一个清晰明确的答案。美国州街银行及信托公司诉签记金融集团(State Street Bank v. & Trust Co. v. Signature Financial Group)一案的法庭拓宽了美国专利局(US Patent Office)的大门,判定不仅经营方法可以申请专利,而且任何生产流程只要能产生“有用、具体、可见的结果”都可以申请专利。

    这一判决的结果是潮水般的专利申请。比如,美国已授予15,000多种经营方法专利。而另外还有几千种专利申请仍在审核中。

    然而,最近几年,美国最高法院一再推翻联邦巡回法庭对专利法的阐释,而且总是撤销联邦巡回法庭授予专利人和专利申请者的权利。

    在一次高等法院没有对其实体进行判决就决定不予受理的案件中,联邦巡回法院仍然遭到批评。最高法院共有9名大法官,其中3个法官在美国实验室公司诉代谢实验室(Laboratory Corp. of America v. Metabolite Laboratories)一案中特意批评了联邦巡回法院对州街银行一案的判决:“那个案件的确说明某种流程如果产生‘有用、具体和可见的结果’可以授予专利。但是本法庭却从未做过如此声明,如果但从字面理解这句话,那么这一声明就会导致作出与本法庭完全相悖的判决。”

    联邦巡回法庭似乎已经认识到了最高法院的信息。2008年联邦巡回法院作出了一系列判决,收紧了专利人和专利申请者的权利。

    联邦巡回法院比尔斯基一案作出了判决,从而使这一局面达到高潮。法院明确反对州街银行的专利标准,并在最高法院原有判例的基础上采用更为严格的标准。法院认为,一种流程只有在(1)依附于一个特定机器设备,或(2)将一个特定物体转化成一种不同状态或物体的情况下才能授予专利。

    “本次联邦巡回法院判决大大背离了自己以往的判例,” 在位于亚特兰大的埃默里大学(Emory University)法学院教授专利法的提默西•R•赫布鲁克(Timothy R. Holbrook)说,“联邦巡回法院大大缩小了可获专利客体范围。”

    技术效果

    通过削减符合专利的发明,联邦巡回法庭使美国法律更加接近欧洲、日本、中国及世界许多其他国家和地区的法律。这些地区对可获专利的认识更狭窄,要求发明必须有“技术效果”才能有资格获取专利保护。

    例如,软件产生技术效果——它有获得专利的潜力——如果使用该软件改进了电脑的运行能力,比如能够让机器运行更快或更有效率地利用内存。如果该软件仅仅在电脑上运行,就没有技术效果,该软件就不能授予专利。

    据波士顿沃尔夫、格林菲尔德和萨克斯(Wolf, Greenfield & Sacks)律师事务所的合伙人史提芬•J• 亨利(Steven J. Henry)介绍,由于有技术效果的要求,许多种软件都无法获得专利。经营方法以及许多其他种类的流程也不无法获得专利。此外,欧洲和日本更是明确地将经营方法排除在专利授予资格之外。

    联邦巡回法庭并没有达到采用欧洲日本等国这些法规的程度。法院提高了美国专利授予专利资格的门槛,但也明确地表明,经营方法本身不是不可以授予专利。该法院也特别反对采用欧洲那种泛泛的标准,而是认为专利不仅仅限于“技术类”的发明。

    全球影响

    当联邦法院对比尔斯基案的判决使美国专利法向其他国家的专利法靠拢时,欧洲和日本也正在考虑向美国靠拢。
    2008年10月,欧洲专利局(European Patent Office)局长将四个关于专利性软件的问题提交给专利局的上诉扩大委员会(Enlarged Board of Appeal),要求该委员会判定软件与机器到底联系多紧密才能有资格获得专利保护。如果该委员会放松目前的严格标准,更多种类的软件就能够在欧洲获得专利。

    同时,日本也在重新思考其在经营方法问题上的立场。亨利说,“他们正期待修改日本法律以允许授予经营方法专利。”
    尽管如此,如果美国最高法院坚持在比尔斯基一案采用严格的专利标准,欧洲和日本可能不会决定扩大可获得专利客体的定义。亨利说,“这会使欧洲的改革者失去动力,他们本想放宽法律规定。”

    海福高特说,“这会不可避免地打击其他国家扩大专利资格客体范围的努力。”他补充说,“世界都在盯着美国,焦急地等待最高法院的判决。”

    劳玉军译

     


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    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website.

    By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    1. You agree that you are fully responsible for the content that you post. You will not knowingly post content that violates the copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property right of any third party or which you know is under a confidentiality obligation preventing its publication and that you will request removal of the same should you discover that you have violated this provision. Likewise, you may not post content that is libelous, defamatory, obscene, abusive, that violates a third party's right to privacy, that otherwise violates any applicable local, state, national or international law, that amounts to spamming or that is otherwise inappropriate. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual preference, disability or other classification. Epithets and other language intended to intimidate or to incite violence are also prohibited. Furthermore, you may not impersonate others.

    2. You understand and agree that Intellectual Property Watch is not responsible for any content posted by you or third parties. You further understand that IP Watch does not monitor the content posted. Nevertheless, IP Watch may monitor the any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove, edit or otherwise alter content that it deems inappropriate for any reason whatever without consent nor notice. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on our site. IP Watch is not in any manner endorsing the content of the discussion forums and cannot and will not vouch for its reliability or otherwise accept liability for it.

    3. By submitting any contribution to IP Watch, you warrant that your contribution is your own original work and that you have the right to make it available to IP Watch for all purposes and you agree to indemnify IP Watch, its directors, employees and agents against all damages, legal fees and others expenses that may be incurred by IP Watch as a result of your breach of warranty or of these terms.

    4. You further agree not to publish any personal information about yourself or anyone else (for example telephone number or home address). If you add a comment to a blog, be aware that your email address will be apparent.

    5. IP Watch will not be liable for any loss including but not limited to the following (whether such losses are foreseen, known or otherwise): loss of data, loss of revenue or anticipated profit, loss of business, loss of opportunity, loss of goodwill or injury to reputation, losses suffered by third parties, any indirect, consequential or exemplary damages.

    6. You understand and agree that the discussion forums are to be used only for non-commercial purposes. You may not solicit funds, promote commercial entities or otherwise engage in commercial activity in our discussion forums.

    7. You acknowledge and agree that you use and/or rely on any information obtained through the discussion forums at your own risk.

    8. For any content that you post, you hereby grant to IP Watch the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual, exclusive and fully sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part, world-wide and to incorporate it in other works, in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

    9. These terms and your posts and contributions shall be governed and interpreted in accordance with the laws of Switzerland (without giving effect to conflict of laws principles thereof) and any dispute exclusively settled by the Courts of the Canton of Geneva.

     

     
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