U.S. patent law Edit

A Beauregard claim is a computer-readable medium claim, named after the decision In re Beauregard.[1] Beauregard claims cover a computer-readable storage device, e.g., a floppy disk or CD, containing a set of instructions that causes a computer to perform a process. In the past such claims were not patentable because they were viewed as "printed matter," i.e., like a set of instructions written down on paper. However, in In re Beauregard the Federal Circuit upheld a computer program as patentable subject matter because it was claimed in terms of an article of manufacture as contained on a floppy disk.

When first utilized in the mid-1990s, Beauregard claims held an uncertain status, as contemporary cases (such as In re Lowry[2]) implied that computer-readable media that contained merely "non-functional" data was unpatentable under the "printed matter" doctrine (which ruled unpatentable any "invention" that primarily comprised printed words on a page). In re Beauregard involved a dispute between a patent applicant who claimed an invention in this fashion, and a patent examiner who rejected it as "printed matter." The Federal Circuit accepted the applicant's appeal — but remanded the case for reconsideration (rather than affirmatively ruling on it) when the Commissioner of Patents essentially conceded and abandoned the examiner's position. Thus, the courts have not expressly ruled on the acceptability of the Beauregard claim style, but its legal status is almost certainly accepted.

However, time has rendered the issue essentially moot. The particular inventions to which Beauregard-style claims are directed — inventions involving computer-readable media — are no longer as interesting, because software deployment is rapidly shifting from computer-readable media (CD-ROMs, DVD-ROMs, etc.) to electronic distribution (Internet delivery). Thus, Beauregard-style claims are less commonly drafted and prosecuted.

Furthermore recent changes in USPTO policy have led to Beauregard claims increasingly being (again) regarded as non-patentable matter, i.e. an electronic signal.

References Edit

  1. 53 F.3d 1583, 35 U.S.P.Q.2d (BNA) 1383 (Fed. Cir. 1995)(full-text).
  2. 32 F.3d 1579, 32 U.S.P.Q.2d (BNA) 1031 (1994) (full-text).

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