The more I've read about the tax patenting process, the more unsettling I find it. It looks like the editorial board of the New York times is similarly concerned. See today's editorial, Pay to Obey, suggesting that it is time that Congress took a look at the patent process in general, "mak[ing] spurious patents easier to challenge across the board, and ...clarifying what may be patented." Id. I second that call.
The Department of Justice, in an October 30 letter from Assistant Attorney General Thomas Barnett, has indicated to a trade association that it won't view the association's attempts to create more open sharing of tax patent information as a problem. (The association sought the DOJ's opinion on the issue because of concerns that the pooling of such information could be seen as facilitating price-fixing.) Here's an excerpt from BNA's description of the association's plans.
VMEbus International Trade Association (VITA), a trade organization, June 8 completed a policy requiring individuals assisting to develop technology standards to disclose their companies' possession or control of essential patents, commitments to license essential patents, and declarations of restrictive licensing terms that are related to the standard under development. Prices of patent licenses also must be disclosed under the standard.
This should mean, at the least, that information about tax patents will be more widely available, if indeed Congress does not step in and make tax patents impossible.
There is already at least one lawsuit claiming patent infringement in respect of a tax patent--Wealth Transfer Group, LLC. vs. John Rowe, filed January 1, 2006, in the District Court for Connecticut. The patent relates to use of a grantor retained annuity trust to hold non-qualified stock options. The complaint seeks a permanent injunction against infringement of the patent and monetary damages.