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The Courts Patents United States

Supreme Court Skeptical of Computer-Based Patents 192

Posted by samzenpus
from the decision-time dept.
walterbyrd (182728) writes "The case, Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International, poses huge risks for both sides. If the court upholds the patent or rules only narrowly against it without affecting most others, the problem of too many patents — and patent lawsuits — will continue. In that case, Justice Stephen Breyer said, future competition could move from price and quality to 'who has the best patent lawyer.'"
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Supreme Court Skeptical of Computer-Based Patents

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  • COULD move from? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 31, 2014 @03:11PM (#46624797)

    COULD move from price and quality to 'who has the best patent lawyer'?

    What COULD? How about we accept the reality it's already happened?

    • by ackthpt (218170) on Monday March 31, 2014 @03:13PM (#46624813) Homepage Journal

      COULD move from price and quality to 'who has the best patent lawyer'?

      What COULD? How about we accept the reality it's already happened?

      It's only happened to a small extent - if patent trolls are protected you can write off the USA as a source for innovation, period.

      • by Altus (1034)

        You could also write it off as a market for innovative goods developed elsewhere.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 31, 2014 @04:37PM (#46625699)

        >>> COULD move from price and quality to 'who has the best patent lawyer'?

        >> What COULD? How about we accept the reality it's already happened?

        > It's only happened to a small extent - if patent trolls are protected you can write off the USA as a source for innovation, period.

        Sorry, I must disagree. It has not happened to a small extent. It's pervasive throughout all of the US legal system, when combined with bullying by rich corporations. Actually, some victims would rather pay for dubious patents than risk losing lots of money in a legal victory.

        It's not just some magical powers that make China advance so fast; entrepreneurs are freer to try new things. Everybody says China only copies the West -- and surely it happens, sometimes very faithfully even -- but they're also experimenting with several innovations in design alone. They have still a lot of things to learn about customer satisfaction, but they succeeded in having a faster innovation cycle.

        OTOH, the USA is becoming more and more trapped in legal bureaucracy. And it's not unintentional.

      • by edibobb (113989)
        It's already had a huge effect. Why bother to build a new company doing something cool when you'll only be sued for patent infringement?

        People offshore don't have to deal with this anticompetitive environment, so that's where the enthusiasm is for new products and new business.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by N0Man74 (1620447)

      COULD move from price and quality to 'who has the best patent lawyer'?

      Has someone patented that process yet?

  • by ackthpt (218170) on Monday March 31, 2014 @03:12PM (#46624805) Homepage Journal

    That would spur innovation and business far more than upholding them could.

    I doubt the authors of the constitution ever foresaw the risk of patent trolling.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by BitZtream (692029)

      Really? How many times are you going to spend years of your life creating something awesome ... only to have someone else like Facebook or Zynga copy it, market it, and put you out of business?

      I doubt you've looked past your own selfishness and actually seen the big picture, so its probably a good idea for you not to pretend to know what the authors of the constitution ... which has nothing at all to say about patents, had in mind when they wrote it.

      • by Nickodeimus (1263214) on Monday March 31, 2014 @03:25PM (#46624967)
        "I doubt you've looked past your own selfishness and actually seen the big picture,"


        but you also said: "Really? How many times are you going to spend years of your life creating something awesome ... only to have someone else like Facebook or Zynga copy it, market it, and put you out of business?"


        Now, who is selfish? The person who wants information to be free or the person who wants to be the sole profiteer?
        • Facebook, Zynga, Apple, Google or whatever mega corporation you may think will take anything they want from you with or without patents. You may try and sue them, but you will likely lose and lose everything you have in the process.

          Patents are made to protect them from you, not the other way around.
          • by cbhacking (979169)

            Loser-pays for legal fees would solve a lot of that...

            • Loser does pay for legal fees, but corporations can risk it and you cannot, and they can outlast you unless you have a lot of money to keep fighting.
      • Facebook and Zynga will steal it anyway.

        • by ackthpt (218170)

          Facebook and Zynga will steal it anyway.

          There is very little that Facebook or Zynga are doing which is original. Social networking harks back to BBSs and arpaNET. Video games go back to Pong, at the very least.

      • You clearly don't know what "copyright" is. There is a difference between patents and copyrights.
      • Really? How many times are you going to spend years of your life creating something awesome ... only to have someone else like Facebook or Zynga copy it, market it, and put you out of business?

        Why not go ask Linus Torvalds what he thinks of them doing that? You see, I'm not a dumbass. I don't work for free. Artificial scarcity is stupid. I don't buy into the copyright and patent futures market. So, I ask for the money to do my work or research or create things UP FRONT, and I ask for enough to cover the work and the profit I need for it, then I "give it away for free" since the work has been paid for. If I want more money I DO MORE WORK. This is how the free and open source model works. This is how Mechanics work too. The benefits from the mechanic's labor are unbounded. Instead of putting a coin-slot on the steering wheel so they can benefit in perpetuity from the work they do once, they recognize folks will bypass the artificial restrictions and instead negotiate a price up front and you pay for the entity of the unbounded benefit their work provides. This is a proven model. This is how the Burger Joint works. This is how every labor market works, except "ideas" and "information".

        The problem is that with a patent system in place the Artificial Scarcity can be leveraged to cheat the researcher. Instead of paying a fair price for the inventor or creator's labor the corporations cherry-pick among what becomes a success. It takes the same effort to discover a success as it does to rule a solution out. Many discoveries are found in unrelated research. X-Ray radiation was discovered by accident. Without patents to create artificial scarcity of otherwise unbounded and infinitely reproducible ideas and information we'd have a more stable market where people charge what the need for their labors instead of accept less pay up front and gamble their effort in the imaginary property futures market.

        What, you think demand is going to disappear if patents do? No, the demand for innovation will still exist, and it will be met. Look at the fashion and automotive industries. They are not allowed copyrights or design patents, and yet they are very lucrative and innovative and sell primarily on design. It wasn't until the 80's that software could even be patented. Oh NO! Your assumptions are shattered! Now what? You could just ignore that we made it all the way past the dawn of the personal computer before greedy dipshits like you decided artificial scarcity is somehow required for anything but stifling progress?

        OK, I'll give you that I don't know exactly what will happen if we ban all patents. However, I just gave you two or three examples of markets where patents were not required for innovation. So, if you're a rational minded person, then you've got to ask yourself: Where is the evidence that patents are promoting the sciences and useful arts? Where's the evidence that patents are not harmful? Where's the evidence that patents are beneficial?! THERE IS NONE. So if you're not insane then you'd think: Hey, wouldn't it be fucked-up to run the world's economy of innovation and creativity based on an untested and unproven hypothesis?! I'm going to go ahead and give you the benefit of the doubt. I'll assume you want to end "piracy", right? OK.

        Assuming you're not an absolute moron, you now agree we should do the experiment and abolish all patents and find out if patents are beneficial. What if they're holding us back needlessly? What if they're very harmful? I'm pretty sure you'd at least like to try and find SOMETHING to support your stance before continuing to believe in baseless assumptions without any evidence? RIGHT?! You don't and won't have a leg to stand on otherwise. I mean we only have evidence for the null hypothesis: Patents are not necessary for innovation or profit. Now the burden of proof is to PROVE patents are MORE beneficial than not having them. I would put it to you that copyright should

        • You see, I'm not a dumbass. I don't work for free. Artificial scarcity is stupid.... I ask for the money to do my work or research or create things UP FRONT, and I ask for enough to cover the work and the profit I need for it, then I "give it away for free" since the work has been paid for.

          You didn't come up with some brilliant system. You just shifted the onus on participating in a system you dislike to your employer.

      • We have patents, and FB and Zynga still do that. So what, the worst case scenario of getting rid of patents is that nothing would change?

      • by Joce640k (829181)

        Really? How many times are you going to spend years of your life creating something awesome ... only to have someone else like Facebook or Zynga copy it, market it, and put you out of business?

        They can do that anyway, and there's not much I can do about it unless I've got $250,000 to spend on patent lawyers.

        And even then...there's no guarantee I'll win. There's hardly anything which doesn't contain a lot of prior art. Most likely my $250,000 will just be added to my bankruptcy bill.

      • not quite nothing (Score:5, Informative)

        by ZombieBraintrust (1685608) on Monday March 31, 2014 @04:35PM (#46625677)

        which has nothing at all to say about patents

        Article One, section 8, clause 8

        The Congress shall have power ... To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;

      • by citizenr (871508)

        Thats cute, but you really dont understand what Patents are.
        Its not some magical police whissle that will summon Patent SWAT team.

        Patents only give you a stronger claim if/when you decide to spend $xxK in lawyer fees to SUE party infringing it. Nothing more.

      • by rjstanford (69735)

        Really? How many times are you going to spend years of your life creating something awesome ... only to have someone else like Facebook or Zynga copy it, market it, and put you out of business?

        How many people, right now, are violating Facebook or Zynga patents by taking advantage of their massive design and usability budgets and just solving problems the same way that they solved them, a week later?

        It works both ways, you know, and I'd propose that there are far more people in the 2nd camp than there are in the 1st.

    • That would spur innovation and business far more than upholding them could.

      I doubt the authors of the constitution ever foresaw the risk of patent trolling.

      Patent law is in Article I, Section 8 and is the exclusive domain of Congress. While SCOTUS can interpret the statute - "oh, when Congress said 'whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process,' they didn't mean that to include natural laws since they're not really 'new', but just 'heretofore unknown'" - they can't rewrite it. If software patents should be completely eliminated, then Congress should amend the statute to explicitly exclude them.

      • It is their job to settle disputes between the federal circuit judges. With this case went before 10 judges their was 7 different opinions. No majority opinion. They could not find 6 judges who could agree what the law was. No one has any clue what Congress meant by process. So they sort of don't have a choice but to interpret the statute.
        • It is their job to settle disputes between the federal circuit judges. With this case went before 10 judges their was 7 different opinions. No majority opinion. They could not find 6 judges who could agree what the law was. No one has any clue what Congress meant by process. So they sort of don't have a choice but to interpret the statute.

          Sure, they have to interpret "process", but they can't just say "software processes aren't processes". Like business methods - Congress updated the Patent Act in 2011 and made some changes to the infringement defenses for business method patents. Well, that kinda implies that Congress thought that business method patents should exist: they don't write laws for how to regulate unicorns. Same thing with software - people have been patenting software for 30 years and the Patent Act has been updated three times

          • The law they wrote made it easier for business method patents to be thrown out and challenged in court. They had the oppurtunity to overule SCOTUS and get rid of Bilski. Instead they made it easier for Bilski to used. That kinda implies the opposite.
            • The law they wrote made it easier for business method patents to be thrown out and challenged in court. They had the oppurtunity to overule SCOTUS and get rid of Bilski. Instead they made it easier for Bilski to used. That kinda implies the opposite.

              No, it implies that they intended for business methods patents to exist generally, but that low quality ones should be invalidated. Certainly, it makes no sense to have a process for challenging them if you were just going to wipe them all out with a single amendment. It'd be like Congress writing a procedure for you to protest how your neighbor is storing their nuclear weapons: adding such a procedure makes no sense since they aren't allowed to have them, period.

    • by rjstanford (69735)

      The big problem with "software patents" (and yes, I've got 'em too) is that they're too conceptual. A patent was supposed to be a complete description for how to perform an action. These days you can effectively get patents on the actions themselves - as if instead of patenting a superior type of cotton gin, you could actually patent the idea that a machine could separate cotton fibers from seeds. You don't even need to build such a machine, just to posit that it could exist and might be built with metal

  • by kruach aum (1934852) on Monday March 31, 2014 @03:15PM (#46624839)

    Who is the best arguer? Who is the best detective? Who is the best doctor? Who is the best programmer? The very nature of being a knowledge worker is that if you are the best you can get your way in spite of reality.

  • by wcrowe (94389) on Monday March 31, 2014 @03:16PM (#46624861)

    Actually, I thought everything in our court system boiled down to "who has the best lawyer".

    • Re:Best lawyer (Score:5, Insightful)

      by NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) on Monday March 31, 2014 @03:23PM (#46624941)
      Don't be silly. It boils down to "who has the most money". The "best lawyer" (just like any other prostitute) is ALWAYS for sale
    • by ackthpt (218170)

      Actually, I thought everything in our court system boiled down to "who has the best lawyer".

      To a certain degree, yes. Perhaps a more relevant term would be "competent". In incompetent lawyer can doom you no matter how strong your arguments, research findings and other evidence.

      At the SCOTUS level not every law firm is capable of pleading a case. If you haven't done your homework your case can be thrown back in your face with instructions to clarify your argument or how Constitutional Law relates to your cause.

      The US Constitution is great reading. Fortunately, there's not a copyright on it so y

  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Monday March 31, 2014 @03:42PM (#46625179) Homepage

    The biggest problem here isn't the question of software patents. It's patents on things that are obvious, or are an obvious progression from something that's already common (eg. taking the manual process of balancing a checkbook and having a computer perform the exact same steps). It's just that software is the field where it's taken root the most, I think because people treat computers as some sort of magic that transforms the ordinary into something extraordinary.

    The most straightforward way to deal with it might be to take computers out of the picture. Start by asking the question "If we replaced the computer with a trained monkey who could slavishly follow instructions, would this be patentable?". If the answer is "Yes.", then the patent's valid. If the answer's "No.", then the burden should be on the patent-holder to explain why the application of a computer to this problem is so non-intuitive, so non-obvious, that someone familiar with the problem and computers would not think of letting a computer handle the chore. And "Because nobody's done it before." is not a valid response. Someone always has to be the first one to try to solve a problem. Counter-intuitively, the patent-holder should have to show that they were not the first, that doing this was so non-obvious that there's a large number of other people who knew what they were doing who tried this and could not figure it out. That the first person to try it immediately found this solution should be considered support for the idea that this was an obvious solution and thus not eligible for patent. That is, after all, almost the dictionary definition of "obvious": the first thing you think to try when faced with a problem?

    • The biggest problem here isn't the question of software patents. It's patents on things that are obvious, or are an obvious progression from something that's already common (eg. taking the manual process of balancing a checkbook and having a computer perform the exact same steps). It's just that software is the field where it's taken root the most, I think because people treat computers as some sort of magic that transforms the ordinary into something extraordinary.

      The most straightforward way to deal with it might be to take computers out of the picture. Start by asking the question "If we replaced the computer with a trained monkey who could slavishly follow instructions, would this be patentable?". If the answer is "Yes.", then the patent's valid. If the answer's "No.", then the burden should be on the patent-holder to explain why the application of a computer to this problem is so non-intuitive, so non-obvious, that someone familiar with the problem and computers would not think of letting a computer handle the chore. And "Because nobody's done it before." is not a valid response. Someone always has to be the first one to try to solve a problem.

      Sure, but that's not the question being asked. Specifically, there are three relevant statutes here:
      35 USC 101 states that processes, machines, compositions of matter, and articles of manufacture are patent eligible, provided that the claimed invention meets the other requirements.
      35 USC 102 states that the claimed invention must be new - i.e. "nobody's done it before."
      35 USC 103 states that the claimed invention must be nonobvious - i.e "so non-intuitive, so non-obvious, that someone familiar with the problem" would not come up with the solution.

      But these are three different statutes, with different tests. 102 and 103 require prior art evidence - "is this new? What about this, where it was done exactly that way last year?"; or "isn't this obvious because it's just a combination of two known things that, even though they haven't been done together before, they'd be trivial to combine?"

      The test for 101, however, is the issue here, and there really isn't a good test. Specifically, the fight is over what it means for a "process" to fit within the patent eligible range: say you actually solve the black hole information paradox and write an application claiming a method for retrieving information from a black hole. It's certainly never been done before, and I doubt anyone would call it obvious... but is it patent eligible? No, under the current understanding, because it's directed to a natural phenomenon.

      See, novelty and obviousness are different questions. This is just about that strange first one, where something can be absolutely non-intuitive and genius, but not eligible, like Einstein's general relativity; or something can be in the field of patent eligible subject matter - like a process for putting butter on toast - but be totally old and well known and invalid under 102.

      Now, that doesn't mean we throw our hands up and say "patent trolls win". It's just that 101 isn't the right tool to defeat them. If they're claiming something that's already common "but on a computer", well - computers are well known, the checkbook balancing is well known... first, we should be able to show that they've been done together before and therefore it's invalid under 102. Second, even if we can't, since both are well known, and combining them is trivial, then the combination is obvious under 103.
      See, there's no need to make a grand sweeping rule that all software is forever ineligible, regardless of how revolutionary and world-changing it is... instead, we just want to get rid of stupid obvious patents, so let's start focusing on when things are stupid and obvious, not just whether they're done on a computer or not.

      • It seems to be common in software patents to try and claim not just a method of doing X, but the whole *concept* of doing X.

        So for instance, the *concept* of doing rubber-band bounce-back. Apple has a patent on this. (http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=7479949.PN.&OS=PN/7479949&RS=PN/7479949)

        To me this smacks of patenting an idea, rather than a specific way of implementing an

        • It seems to be common in software patents to try and claim not just a method of doing X, but the whole *concept* of doing X.

          So for instance, the *concept* of doing rubber-band bounce-back. Apple has a patent on this. (http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=7479949.PN.&OS=PN/7479949&RS=PN/7479949)

          To me this smacks of patenting an idea, rather than a specific way of implementing an idea.

          That one's not the rubber-band patent, nor is it just a concept... They claimed:

          11. A computer-implemented method, comprising:
          at a computing device with a touch screen display, detecting one or more finger contacts with the touch screen display;
          applying one or more heuristics to the one or more finger contacts to determine a command for the device; and
          processing the command;
          wherein the one or more heuristics comprise:
          a vertical screen scrolling heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to a one-dimensional vertical screen scrolling command rather than a two-dimensional screen translation command based on an angle of initial movement of a finger contact with respect to the touch screen display;
          a two-dimensional screen translation heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to the two-dimensional screen translation command rather than the one-dimensional vertical screen scrolling command based on the angle of initial movement of the finger contact with respect to the touch screen display; and
          a next item heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to a command to transition from displaying a respective item in a set of items to displaying a next item in the set of items.

          Which seems to be rules for determine whether you're scrolling, dragging, or flipping apps/tabs.

          • by rjstanford (69735)

            That's still massively vague and far-reaching. They should be able to patent the specific heuristics themselves. They should not be able to patent the idea of using heuristics to figure out what to do.

            Its like patenting the cotton gin as follows:

            11. A mechanically-implemented method, comprising:
            one or more lengths of iron or other metal commonly used in the field of production to separate the fibers of the cotton from their seeds;
            applying motion to various parts of the machine to determine which portions of the cotton are fibers;
            inputting energy into the system in order to achieve separation of fibers;
            a grading to determine when sufficient fibers have been separated; and
            a mechanism for disposing of the seeds and resetting the device.

            Without specifics, they're still describing the idea of a rubber-band display. You could build one using all of your own formulae for behavior and appearance, and you'd still be in violation of their patent.

            • That's still massively vague and far-reaching. They should be able to patent the specific heuristics themselves. They should not be able to patent the idea of using heuristics to figure out what to do.

              Its like patenting the cotton gin as follows:

              11. A mechanically-implemented method, comprising: one or more lengths of iron or other metal commonly used in the field of production to separate the fibers of the cotton from their seeds; applying motion to various parts of the machine to determine which portions of the cotton are fibers; inputting energy into the system in order to achieve separation of fibers; a grading to determine when sufficient fibers have been separated; and a mechanism for disposing of the seeds and resetting the device.

              Without specifics, they're still describing the idea of a rubber-band display. You could build one using all of your own formulae for behavior and appearance, and you'd still be in violation of their patent.

              And, if you were the first person to ever separate cotton fibers or create intuitive user interfaces, wouldn't that be reasonable? Isn't the bigger issue here the fact that it may be not new or obvious to do, rather than just that it's an idea?

          • by rjstanford (69735)

            Which seems to be rules for determine whether you're scrolling, dragging, or flipping apps/tabs.

            Forgot that bit - again, they're not describing the rules that they use (which is the whole idea of a patent - you publish what would otherwise be your trade secrets and in exchange you get government protection against anyone copying them without paying you for a small amount of time), they're describing the idea that there could be rules to determine whether you're scrolling, dragging, or flipping apps/tabs.

            Big difference.

      • by suutar (1860506)
        Can we also start focusing on "description sufficient for someone skilled in the art to duplicate the invention"? I think that would also take a bite out of vagueness. "I built that according to your instructions and it doesn't do that other stuff at all."
        • Can we also start focusing on "description sufficient for someone skilled in the art to duplicate the invention"? I think that would also take a bite out of vagueness. "I built that according to your instructions and it doesn't do that other stuff at all."

          Hell, yeah. "I have no idea what you're even trying to describe" is a serious problem, and good grounds for invalidation.

        • Apparently the PTO doesn't allow patents with code in them because no one understands code.
    • by Tablizer (95088)

      But "obviousness" is too fuzzy a concept. Even outside of software it has proved problematic, such as when existing technologies are combined to get something new.

      For example, resistor-based charge-and-uncharge technology had been around since the early 50's if I am not mistaking. However, in the early 1960's somebody used it to implement intermittent windshield wipers. Before that, mechanical means were used to implement them. Back then it was considered fairly novel. Patent lawsuits broke out.

      However, al

      • But "obviousness" is too fuzzy a concept... One way to measure "obvious" is a panel of experts. But what if none of the "experts" know about the new "kits" on the block such as solid-state electronics or web standards?

        In practice, it's not that fuzzy: the current test for obviousness used by the courts and the patent office relies on the existence of prior art to avoid hindsight. It also avoids the problem of having a panel of "experts" that you have to keep sequestered... and therefore who would fall behind the state of the art and would shortly not be experts anymore. Specifically, the test is whether one or more pieces of prior art, alone or in combination, teach or suggest each and every element of the claimed invent

    • by tlhIngan (30335) <[ten.frow] [ta] [todhsals]> on Monday March 31, 2014 @04:45PM (#46625773)

      The biggest problem here isn't the question of software patents. It's patents on things that are obvious, or are an obvious progression from something that's already common (eg. taking the manual process of balancing a checkbook and having a computer perform the exact same steps). It's just that software is the field where it's taken root the most, I think because people treat computers as some sort of magic that transforms the ordinary into something extraordinary.

      Actually, you know, in the 19th century, the patent lawsuits were flying even more vigorously than they are now. In fact, in the field, it got so bad that it was impossible to create the device.

      No, it wasn't a matter of licensing, but a matter that you couldn't build it because the patents were so broad and even worse, they overlapped! And no one was licensing to competitors, so everyone was suing everyone else. And yes, we had NPEs (non-practicing entities, aka trolls) as well.

      The device? The sewing machine. Everyone was suing everyone else, and patents were granted that were overlapping. So if you managed to license one, someone else with the exact same thing would sue you. Heck, the only real difference was back then, the inventors held onto their patents and did a lot of the suing.

      The end of the 19th century nearly brought a halt to the sewing machine. Until the companies got together and simply bought up every patent around from everyone. Literally buying the peace.

  • by rs1n (1867908) on Monday March 31, 2014 @03:45PM (#46625199)
    The article suggests that the justices are wavering because there are reservations about the repercussion of their decisions on existing software companies. The issue I have with that is that they should NOT be decided based on the repercussions. Their decision should be made as a matter of law.
    • While I agree that their ultimate decision should only be made based on the law, that doesn't mean that they shouldn't think about all the ramifications of their decision. If they choose one course of action that follows the law despite those ramifications, it shows they considered all sides of the argument in full.

      Personally, I think the only companies that will really be hurt if they decide to throw out software patents are law firms. These guys are spending way too much money trying to litigate each
    • by mark-t (151149)
      But they *will* be decided based on the repercussions... what you or I think *should* happen is entirely irrelevant.
  • by sconeu (64226) on Monday March 31, 2014 @04:13PM (#46625473) Homepage Journal

    From TFA:

    "Just looking at it, it looks pretty complicated," Roberts said in reference to a diagram used in the patent. "There are a lot of arrows and ... different things that go ... in different directions."

    Translation: OOH SHINY!!!

    • CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Well, but I mean, you know, it in different directions. And I understand him to say that in each of those places, that's where the computer is needed.

      MR. PERRY: Mr. Chief Justice, Figure 16 has nothing to do with the invention asserted against my client in this case. There are two inventions in this patent. One invention involving multilateral contract formation is not asserted against my client. And all of these drawings pertain to that. The only drawings that pertain to the asserted claims are 25 and 33 to 37. And that was established below, and it's established in this Court. And Mr. Phillips has never disputed it. So the claim he's pointed the Court the figure he's pointed the Court to has nothing to do with the invention. It's for a different invention that is not at issue in this case.

  • Too much big money is tied up in the value of software patents, and I don't think the Supreme Court is interested in doing what would probably amount to irreparable harm to that many corporations.

    Not saying it *CAN'T* happen that the court could rule against them, stranger things have happened in the past - but I wouldn't hold my breath.

    Goodness knows I'd sorely enjoy being wrong about this, however.

  • by samwhite_y (557562) * <icrewps.yahoo@com> on Monday March 31, 2014 @05:44PM (#46626315)
    If I were to write in a paper in medicine and try to get it published in one of the various medical journals that are out there that have a reasonably good reputation, I would be rejected so quickly if I were to try a "Algorithm for using instruments in surgery, nurse hands over knives handle first" journal article. But the equivalent of this level of obviousness make it through the patent office all the time. Software I have worked on has gotten patents more than once. In all cases, I thought the patents obvious to the point of silliness.

    When I was younger, I naively believed that patents demonstrated that the inventor was truly clever and original -- the lightbulb, invention of jet engine, silicon chip, and so on. Now, what I see is a world filled with patents that are a waste of everybody's time and those few who actually truly invent something new are no longer getting the positive rep that used to come with filing a patent.

    The solution is simple. You make the patent filer pay a few thousand dollars, you use that money to pay "world class experts in the field" and then you ask the experts, is the invention truly original and of significant value -- so much so that keeping the details of the invention secret would actively harm mankind?

    If the patent isn't worth paying a few thousand dollars to file, then why should we even be considering it.
    • by dcollins (135727)

      "If I were to write in a paper in medicine and try to get it published in one of the various medical journals that are out there that have a reasonably good reputation, I would be rejected so quickly if I were to try a "Algorithm for using instruments in surgery, nurse hands over knives handle first" journal article."

      Well... there are good journals and then there are publish-anything journals. Sadly, I've been in some faculty meetings where the thesis has been, "anything you write can get published somewher

  • I'm skeptical of patents on inventions made of steel, and of gears. Almost anything that can be done with a machine made of steel could also be done manually. Therefore you can't patent a new invention that does the job in a new way.

    Gears aren't a new a new invention, therefore a new invention can't be made with gears. Besides, gears just multiply force. Since you can't patent the basic concept ofmultiplication, that means you can't patent an invention that USES multiplication. Gears do multiplication, so

    • Two answers:

      First, software exists outside the physical world. Every piece of software is an algorithm, and algorithms are pure math, and pure math, by very long-standing precedent, isn't patentable. Hence, the argument goes, software isn't patentable, because doing so is equivalent to patenting the pure math behind it.

      Second, the real reason software shouldn't be patentable is because of all the policy reasons given in this discussion. They just cause more trouble than they're worth. The "software is m

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