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Patents The Courts United States

US Supreme Court: Patent Holders Must Prove Infringment 143

Posted by timothy
from the telling-mom-what-you-did dept.
jfruh writes "The Supreme Court issued a ruling that might help marginally curb patent madness. Ruling on a case between Medtronic and Mirowski Family Ventures, the court rules that the burden of proof in patent infringement cases is always on the patent holder. This is true even in the specific case at hand, in which Medtronic sought a declaratory judgement that it was not violating the Mirowski patents."
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US Supreme Court: Patent Holders Must Prove Infringment

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  • Now the next step... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Moryath (553296) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @12:52PM (#46047161)

    placing the burden on the patent holder to prove the patent is NOT the result of:

    - Patent slamming to game the system (e.g. submitting the same fucking thing 100 different times hoping one submission will slip by an overworked patent reviewer)
    - Patenting something already patented
    - Patenting something that is already obvious
    - Submarine-patenting

  • DOS Patent Trolls? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Luciano Moretti (2887109) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @12:56PM (#46047229)

    How hard would it be for OpenSource Projects and Small Companies to file for a declarative judgement lawsuit for every software patent held by trolls? I'm assuming that filing fees would get cost prohibitive quickly, but would we be able to DOS attack the patent trolls and the courts they use to prove the point?

  • Haha wow (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 23, 2014 @12:58PM (#46047259)

    Cue a million companies queuing up to sue for declaratory judgement in order to force companies to show their cards instead of vague "something you do violates some part of one of our patents pay 20% of your income or be sued" threats.

  • Re:Wow... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 23, 2014 @01:08PM (#46047385)

    The summary omits the central issues in the case. Medtronic had previously licensed patents from Mirowski Family Ventures for some of their older devices. Medtronics claimed their new devices didn't use the same methods and therefore decided not to continue to license the patents. The Federal Circuit Court (which is notoriously patent-holder friendly) decided that since Medtronics had previously been a licensee and they were the plaintiffs in the declaratory judgement suit (they had sued pre-emptively to have the court decide that they weren't infringing rather than wait for Mirowski to file suit) the burden was on them to prove that they didn't infringe. The Supreme Court disagreed 9-0 which should make fighting bogus patents slightly easier.

  • by manquer (1950350) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @01:17PM (#46047475) Homepage

    (e.g. submitting the same fucking thing 100 different times hoping one submission will slip by an overworked patent reviewer)

    I am not a fan of the current patenting system, but this is BS, a patent application costs $10,000, if the patent reviewer is overworked it has nothing to do with the abuse of the system, even considering a cost of $200,000 to the USPTO per patent reviewer including all the overheads a reviewer has to only review 20 patents a year to make the system viable.

  • by iamgnat (1015755) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @02:08PM (#46048025)

    I'll be the contrarian here and state the belief that this ruling isn't so good.

    The major issue, of course, is that there is massive abuse to the system, but if you look at what the system is supposed to do I think this ruling turns things more decidedly in the favor of large companies.

    The idea of the patent system was that anyone could patent their grand idea and then have legal backing to protect it in court from someone that uses the idea without consent. The filing fees were also designed to be low to keep the barrier of entry low enough that "the little guy" could get the same protection as the big corporations.

    Prior to this ruling (ignoring the shake downs by trolls) an individual or small company had a chance of winning a patent case against much larger entities (motions and legal wrangling aside) as the process of discovery forces the defendant to show their cards and prove they aren't infringing with no upfront cost to the plaintiff.

    With this ruling, if you come up with the next great search algorithm (software patent absurdity aside) and Bing/Google/Yahoo steals it you now have to foot the bill for the discovery. Without the court order you also aren't going to get very far in that process as they aren't exactly going to welcome you into their office, sit you down at a console, and give you access to their code.

    So what this ruling does, in my opinion, is give the larger companies the right to violate patents from smaller entities with near impunity. It also (as someone suggested further down regarding OSS projects) gives rise to a whole new possible "reverse-patent" trolling business scheme.

    Basically this ruling, I think, has made things worse.

  • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @02:10PM (#46048055) Homepage

    Physical patents do not require a working implementation, and haven't in quite some time. Rather, they only require enough detail that someone skilled in the art could create a working implementation of what's claimed using only common knowledge and the patent itself.

    For software, that means that if you're claiming a particular sorting algorithm, you have to include enough details about how that algorithm works that another programmer could duplicate the sort... but if you're not patenting the comparison operation, you don't have to include that, even if your algorithm requires some particular comparison to work. That's a trade secret.

    Also note that the title and abstract really don't matter. Most of the "vague" patents reported on Slashdot and other anti-patent sites have vague titles, but the claimse themselves are usually pretty detailed about the specific situation where the method applies.

    Continuing the analogy, a method for sorting 3D models might have a title of "Comparative sorting method", and an abstract that describes the need for sorting, both of which are sure to annoy Slashdotters. The patent claims could then detail a particular way of framing the problem, where we sort models based on their ratio.of filled-to-empty space, with a weighted preference for the appearance of space from particular projections. The algorithm itself might appear at first glance to be, say, a quick-sort, but with a few little tweaks to accommodate the multiple sorting criteria. As above, the actual method for computing filled space may be a secret that's left out of the patent, even though the patented mechanism is really useless without it. The end result is a patent that looks like "quick sort... now in 3-D!" but really describes a useful, novel, and non-obvious solution for a very specific problem.

  • by sjbe (173966) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @03:45PM (#46049139)

    LOL...if someone is charging you $10K to file it for you, then you are getting ripped off.

    The cost isn't the patent submission fees. The primary cost is the lawyer you'll inevitably have to hire during the process. Getting a patent successfully through is actually more complicated than it might seem at first glance.

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