The bad news was a ruling by District Judge James Cacheris permanently enjoining the USPTO from implementing proposed rules that would have made it significantly more difficult for firms or individuals to obtain apply for large numbers of patents. These rules would also have limited the number of continuations a patent applicant could request to 3. Both of these rules are viewed by IP reformers as important changes that would make it more difficult for patent trolls to operate. The limit on continuations would significantly reduce the incidence of submarine patents.
Of course, the patent bar and their lobbyists are overjoyed with the news.
On the good news front, via Janis Fraser's article in Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News, the USPTO has issued a ruling on the obviousness of genes that reverts to a previously used criterion, based on the Supreme Court's ruling last year on the general issue of the obviousness defense against infringement. The old criteria for when a gene was obvious was whether there were existing procedures for cloning it. In 1995, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit changed the rules by adding the criterion that the nucleotide sequence of the gene be "predictable" based on current science. Since these sequences are almost always unpredictable, this raised the bar on the obviousness defese significantly.
The Supreme Court's 2007 ruling in the KSR v. Teleflex case (which involved the question of whether reinventing a car gas pedal was obvious or not) raised a number of very broad issues regarding the obviousness defense, and it is these issues that have led the USPTO to reinstate the old rules on when a gene is obvious, despite the CAFC's '95 ruling. Whether the rule change sticks remains to be seen.