In an effort to “enhance the quality of software patents,” the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) has announced a partnership with the software community.

The Software Partnership will provide roundtable discussions between stakeholders and the PTO to share ideas and insights on software-related patents. The PTO will sponsor two roundtable events, one in Silicon Valley on February 12, and the other in New York City on February 27. In addition, the PTO plans to make each roundtable event available via Web cast, and will post Web cast information on its Internet Web site before the events.

Public attendees will have the opportunity to provide individual input, although group consensus advice will not be sought. The PTO will accept written comments about software patents through March 15. Registration to attend the roundtables is required and due by February 4. Written comments received by the PTO and list of event participants and their affiliations will be posted on the PTO’s Internet Web site.

For the roundtable discussions, the planned topics are: improving clarity of claim boundaries that define the scope of patent protection for claims that use functional language; identifying additional topics for future discussion by the Software Partnership; and a forthcoming Request for Comments on Preparation of Patent Applications. An opportunity for oral presentations on the Request for Comments will be provided to attendees physically attending the Silicon Valley and New York City roundtable events.

As IP practitioners are aware, the Software Partnership comes at a time when the Federal Circuit is set to hear en banc arguments on February 8 in CLS Bank Int’l v. Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd., a dispute regarding whether an abstract idea implemented using computer software is patentable.

Gibbons will participate in the roundtable events, and will continue to monitor developments and to provide counsel in this area.

Thomas J. Bean is Counsel to the Gibbons Intellectual Proparty Department. Robert E. Rudnick, a Director in the Gibbons Intellectual Property Department, co-authored this post.