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For more than four decades, Fenwick & West LLP has helped some of the world’s most recognized companies become, and remain, market leaders. From emerging enterprises to large public corporations, our clients are leaders in the technology, life sciences and cleantech sectors and are fundamentally changing the world through rapid innovation.  MORE >

Fenwick & West was founded in 1972 in the heart of Silicon Valley—before “Silicon Valley” existed—by four visionary lawyers who left a top-tier New York law firm to pursue their shared belief that technology would revolutionize the business world and to pioneer the legal work for those technological innovations. In order to be most effective, they decided they needed to move to a location close to primary research and technology development. These four attorneys opened their first office in downtown Palo Alto, and Fenwick became one of the first technology law firms in the world.  MORE >

From our founding in 1972, Fenwick has been committed to promoting diversity and inclusion both within our firm and throughout the legal profession. For almost four decades, the firm has actively promoted an open and inclusive work environment and committed significant resources towards improving our diversity efforts at every level.  MORE >

At Fenwick, we are proud of our commitment to the community and to our culture of making a difference in the lives of individuals and organizations in the communities where we live and work. We recognize that providing legal services is not only an essential part of our professional responsibility, but also an excellent opportunity for our attorneys to gain valuable practical experience, learn new areas of the law and contribute to the community.  MORE >

Year after year, Fenwick & West is honored for excellence in the legal profession. Many of our attorneys are recognized as leaders in their respective fields, and our Corporate, Tax, Litigation and Intellectual Property Practice Groups consistently receive top national and international rankings, including:

  • Named Technology Group of the Year by Law360
  • Ranked #1 in the Americas for number of technology deals in 2015 by Mergermarket
  • Nearly 20 percent of Fenwick partners are ranked by Chambers
  • Consistently ranked among the top 10 law firms in the U.S. for diversity
  • Recognized as having top mentoring and pro bono programs by Euromoney

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At Fenwick, we have a passion for excellence and innovation that mirrors our client base. Our firm is making revolutionary changes to the practice of law through substantial investments in proprietary technology tools and processes—allowing us to deliver best-in-class legal services more effectively.   MORE >

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US Perspectives: US Cracking Down on Software Patents

October 01, 2014

​Fenwick & West patent partner Robert Sachs was prominently featured in an Intellectual Property Watch article regarding a recent crackdown by U.S. courts and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on software patents in the aftermath of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in Alice Corp v. CLS Bank.

The patents unanimously struck down by the Court were for an electronic escrow service for online securities sales. The Supreme Court ruled that an abstract idea like escrow, which has been around for hundreds of years, does not become patent eligible simply by being executed online.

Since then, the USPTO has drawn a much tougher line regarding similar patent claims.

Said Sachs, “The patent office has taken Alice and pushed it as far as the agency can. The patent office is rejecting everything it can. Some applications are even being pulled after allowance, which is unheard of in my experience.”

The USPTO’s administrative appeals unit, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) has been similarly tough, but Sachs says that the PTAB’s rulings have been inconsistent.

“Some PTAB panels are more liberal and others more aggressive on Section 101 rejections [patent-ineligible subject matter]. There is no clear dividing line on when claims will be allowed and when they will be rejected,” he said.

The USPTO’s handling of patent applications is similarly inconstant, according to Sachs. “We are seeing different approaches from different examiners and different art units.”

The overall effect has been dramatic.  Said Sachs, “This certainly changes the dynamic of patent litigation. It tilts the field in favor of defendants.”

This approach to patent claims makes the U.S. more aligned with its European counterparts.

As Sachs put it, “It appears we are moving towards a European-type test for the patent eligibility of software-related inventions. To patent these inventions in Europe, there must be a technical solution that is being claimed. In the U.S., software-related claims now have to cover something technological – such as an improvement in the functioning of the computer, or an improvement in any other technology or technology field – but that doesn’t put us directly in camp with the European model.”

Sachs added that Europe still maintains a tougher stance on these matters.

“Articles 52 and 53 of European Patent Convention exclude certain items from patentability, such as business methods, computer programs, and diagnostic methods. We in the U.S. haven’t gone as far as that,” he said.