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The Courts Patents Software

US Supreme Court Invalidates Patent For Being Software Patent 220

Posted by timothy
from the arts-and-science-vs-arts-and-sausages dept.
ciaran_o_riordan (662132) writes The US Supreme Court has just invalidated a patent for being a software patent! To no fanfare, the Court has spent the past months reviewing a case, Alice v. CLS Bank, which posed the question of "Whether claims to computer-implemented inventions ... are directed to patent-eligible subject matter." Their ruling was just published, and what we can say already is that the court was unanimous in finding this particular software patent invalid, saying: "the method claims, which merely require generic computer implementation, fail to transform that abstract idea into a patent-eligible invention," and go on to conclude that because "petitioner's system and media claims add nothing of substance to the underlying abstract idea, we hold that they too are patent ineligible." The End Software Patents wiki has a page for commenting the key extracts and listing third-party analyses. Analysis will appear there as the day(s) goes on. Careful reading is needed to get an idea of what is clearly invalidated (file formats?), and what areas are left for future rulings. If you can help, well, it's a wiki. Software Freedom Law Center's website will also be worth checking in the near future.
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US Supreme Court Invalidates Patent For Being Software Patent

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  • by gumbright (574609) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @10:33AM (#47272759)
    Please let this lead somewhere good.
  • by DrJimbo (594231) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @10:38AM (#47272817)

    We need someone who is familiar with the law to explain this to us techies. PJ we need you!

  • Shock and Awe (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Carcass666 (539381) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @10:40AM (#47272839)

    A unanimous decision, authored by the most conservative voice on the court (Thomas) with a concurring opinion by one of the most liberal (Sotomayor). If this were the beginning of April, I would say this story was a prank. Yeah, it doesn't completely kill software patents, but it does seem to mortally wound the "business process + software = patent troll profit" problem that is plaguing software development. This is a good day for the judicial branch. It's a good day for the USA.

  • by msauve (701917) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @10:42AM (#47272861)
    If you figure it out, patent it!
  • by Tx (96709) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @10:43AM (#47272871) Journal

    I wonder if this ought to invalidate crap like the infamous Amazon one-click patent. After all it was also just a generic software implementation of a long-established system, namely storing someone's payment and address details for use with future purchases.

  • Re:Goodbye 1Click (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @11:36AM (#47273493) Journal

    Yes.

    Similarly, assembling a wooden crate "with a nail gun" is not an inventive step over "the same way for thousands of years, but with a hammer."

  • by mysidia (191772) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @12:27PM (#47274051)

    I worry that the stupid FAT32 patent will still be around (since it deals with how a HDD is formatted),

    The fact that you can format a RAMDISK or an image file as FAT32; shows that the FAT filesystem actually an abstraction and claims about the abstract mathematical datastructures and parameters of the FAT filesystem really have nothing to do directly with the way the disk (or 'block' device) is formatted.

  • by mysidia (191772) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @12:52PM (#47274293)

    Unfortunately, you have to (1) be sued by Amazon for violating the patent (else you have no standing to challenge it)

    If your business was damaged by their enforcement activities in the past, regarding their claims about their patent -- such as cease and decist letters, or you were required to license the patent, OR you had an offer to license the patent and refused to license the patent [jdsupra.com], you might also have standing to pursue declaratory judgement.

    As far as we know; Amazon took action against Barnes and Noble once, and hasn't sued anyone since, so this isn't likely.

  • by ciaran_o_riordan (662132) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @01:07PM (#47274431) Homepage

    I know the headline is correct because Gene Quinn is hopping mad. Quinn makes a living by obtaining software patents and always says he can draft around any limits imposed by the courts, but here's what he's saying today:

    "an intellectually bankrupt opinion ... will render many hundreds of thousands of software patents completely useless ... On first read I donâ(TM)t see how any software patent claims written as method or systems claims can survive challenge."

    http://www.ipwatchdog.com/2014... [ipwatchdog.com]

    I didn't want to trust my own reading, but I knew it was a big victory when I read Quinn's reaction.

  • by Darinbob (1142669) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @08:44PM (#47278339)

    It's hard to say. On the surface though it seems to at least invalidate one large class of software patents. That is, taking an existing idea and then doing it in software is not enough to make a new patentable idea. Which is exactly what so many companies encourage their employees to do when coming up with patents for the portfolio, and similar concept about reusing old ideas with new touch up paint.

    For example I was once at a company that did ultrasound imaging, and we had been encouraged in the software group to apply for more patents. One manager said that it could be ok to just take an idea and add "in ultrasound" to the end of it. The example was from a competitor which held the patent for "field upgradable software ... in ultrasound", and the patent actually had drawings of an optical disk being delivered via airplane to a remote location and being inserted into a machine.

    That points out the big problem really: all these companies feel the need to create all the patents because all of their competitors are doing it. If you're the only company in the field that has to pay licensing fees while everyone else is cross licensing instead, then you're at a serious disadvantage. It's a bit like working in a corrupt country, you feel a bit dirty about paying bribes but maybe you have no choice if you want to do business there.

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