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Changes in patent law obviate malpractice claim

Business owners and attorneys operating in Ohio might be interested in the details of a legal malpractice case involving intellectual property and applying still-new patent standards. Encyclopedia Britannica filed the malpractice suit in 2010 after it was unable to enforce a number of patents. The defendant in the case was the law firm that had filed the patents on Britannica's behalf in 1993.

According to the ruling, the technology Britannica sought to patent could not be patented, even in the absence of the law firm's alleged mistakes. The judge said that encyclopedias, which are described as databases in Britannica's patent documents, have been around for thousands of years, and that the ideas the company claimed as intellectual property were not patentable under current law. As an example, Britannica claimed its search function was patentable because it made use of a computer's ability to search a database faster than a person.

The court said such a feature does not qualify as an inventive concept as is required for protection by U.S. patent law. Britannica also argued that its search function represented an improvement on the operation of a computer, and here, too, the judge disagreed, citing Federal Circuit Court precedent and finding that the operations were merely applications run on a computer and that they don't alter the machine in any fundamental way.

Thus, because of how the law has changed since the early-1990s, the law firm that filed the patents could not be rightly blamed for the outcome of Britannica's patent case. Individuals who have questions about legal malpractice law may want to consult an attorney. An attorney with legal malpractice experience may be able to provide advice regarding the strength of a claim and analyze potential defenses. An attorney may aid in the creation of necessary documents or represent a client in court.

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