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Patents Software The Courts

Supreme Court To Review Software Patents 115

Posted by Soulskill
from the put-on-your-game-face dept.
New submitter chrylis writes "SCOTUSblog is reporting that the U.S. Supreme Court has accepted an appeal in Alice v. CLS Bank, a case in which the Federal Circuit ruled haphazardly that the particular patents in question were invalid but did not address the issue of software patents generally. 'The case will provide a new test of the Patent Act’s most basic provision — Section 101, which broadly outlines what kinds of inventions are patentable. One of the long-standing exceptions to the types of inventions mentioned in that section is that an abstract idea can never be patented. That issue arises frequently these days, especially with rapidly developing technology in computer software. The EFF wrote a summary of the issues in the case when it was before the Federal Circuit this spring. The case files are also available."
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Supreme Court To Review Software Patents

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  • Some background (Score:5, Informative)

    by UnknowingFool (672806) on Friday December 06, 2013 @02:13PM (#45620913)

    The case involves Alice Corporation who holds four patents originating in the 1990s of which was for "a computerized system for creating and exchanging financial instruments such as derivatives." These patents were challenged by CLS Bank International in 2007. The district court ruled summarily for CLS in that none of patents were valid. The Federal Circuit initially reversed the lower court; however, the full panel (en banc) voted 7 out of 10 to affirm the district court but also issued 5 separate concurring and dissenting opinions.

    This confusion was noted by the Electronic Frontier Foundation in its amicus brief:

    " . . . the Federal Circuit has failed to implement a workable standard—or, frankly, any standard at all—as to what computer- and Internet-implemented inventions are patentable. The resulting legal instability has driven up the already-ballooning costs of patent litigation . . ."

    In my opinion, it appears that main patent simply added "on the computer" to an existing process, namely in an business transaction between two parties, there is a third party that ensures that payment is made and is facilitated. The computer made the transaction faster and more automated as noted by Judge Lourie in his opinion.

    “simply appending generic computer functionality to lend speed or efficiency to the performance of an otherwise abstract concept does not meaningfully limit claim scope for purposes of patent eligibility."

  • Selectivity (Score:3, Informative)

    by Okian Warrior (537106) on Friday December 06, 2013 @02:26PM (#45621011) Homepage Journal

    I'm so glad that the fate of software patents in the US is being left up to a bunch of old geezers who probably can't figure out how to publish their legal opinions online without the help of their IT department.

    Don't worry - they'll render a decision that only affects the narrowest possible circumstances, "leaving the subject open" to further litigation on other slight differences in scope.

    The supremes [youtube.com] don't actually rule on the big issues any more - in modern times, it's all subtle refinements and clarifications.

  • Re:Expect... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dynedain (141758) <[moc.nilcmynohtna] [ta] [2todhsals]> on Friday December 06, 2013 @03:37PM (#45621625) Homepage

    If you have a gizmo that does A, B, and C, then you can patent it, and how exactly it meets these claims in terms of technology is irrelevant.

    Actually how a gizmo does A,B,C is critically important for a patent. As another device can do A,B,C, but in a different way, and it would not violate the patent.

    The overall problem with software patents is they define the What (A,B,C) but not the How. So any implementation that accomplishes goals A,B,C is suddenly in violation.

  • Re:Obviousness (Score:3, Informative)

    by firewrought (36952) on Friday December 06, 2013 @04:27PM (#45622011)

    We need to balance the benefits of patents (disclosure) with the detriments (short term artificial monopoly).

    Have you read modern patents? They consist of dense legalese that's of no practical value to technologists. And twenty years is not "short term" in computing... our industry proceeds much faster than that.

  • Re:Great... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Xtifr (1323) on Friday December 06, 2013 @05:09PM (#45622391) Homepage

    You're confusing ideologies. Someone's position on the right or left is not going to have any bearing on their ideological positions about patents, because patents aren't a right/left issue. It's a different type of ideology. A more idiosyncratic ideology. But an ideology nonetheless.

    (Actually, I shouldn't say left/right, because dem/rep doesn't break down that way, but I'm simplifying for the sake of clarity.)

    That said, because this isn't tied to their political allegiances, they may all be more inclined to listen to the arguments rather than pre-emptively voting with their preconceptions. Not guaranteed, but much more likely than in some cases.

How many Unix hacks does it take to change a light bulb? Let's see, can you use a shell script for that or does it need a C program?

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