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The Courts Patents Software

US Supreme Court Invalidates Patent For Being Software Patent 220

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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  • It was invalidated because the process it describes is super super old. They only thing they added to the old process was using a computer. So if you invent something actually new. Then you can patent that. But "old idea + computer" is not patentable.

    If something's not new, it's invalid under 35 USC 102. If something is obvious, it's invalid under 35 USC 103. Both of these would apply to "old process + computer", and the patent should have been invalidated on those grounds...

    But, you have to prove that it's an old idea with some evidence in the form of prior art. And because SCOTUS can't do their own prior art searches, even though they knew it was an old idea, they couldn't invalidate it under 102 or 103... So, instead, they turned to 35 USC 101, and said that this was not a patent eligible method because it was directed to an "abstract idea"... But what's an abstract idea? According to Thomas, anything super super old, like you said. But that's what the other statutes are for.

    It's the right outcome - the patent was clearly invalid - but for the wrong reason.

  • by hydrofix ( 1253498 ) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @12:34PM (#47273469)
    At least according to Ars [] this is much less. It's just about killing specific kind of SW patents. Crucially, it still allows patents that "improve the functioning of the computer itself".
  • by pepty ( 1976012 ) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @12:40PM (#47273561)
    SCOTUS has been limiting intellectual property rights for several years now. Prometheus (also unanimous), Myriad, and now Alice. It seems like one thing they can all get behind.
  • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @12:57PM (#47273715)

    I wonder if this ought to invalidate crap like the infamous Amazon one-click patent.

    Unfortunately, you have to (1) be sued by Amazon for violating the patent (else you have no standing to challenge it), and (2) pay the expense of multi-year court battles with practically no hope of recouping your costs even if you win.

    OTOH, I actually like the one-click patent even though I think it's a stupid and invalid patent. It prevents other online stores from putting in a button which can cause you to instantly buy something if you accidentally click it (this has happened to me on Amazon).

  • In other news... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dnaumov ( 453672 ) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @01:22PM (#47273999)

    ... Supreme Court has upheld the patentability of software concepts, while setting limits: Companies can't patent a mere abstract idea on a computer, but can patent software ideas that advance or improve upon existing ideas. []

  • Re:WTF (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hubie ( 108345 ) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @02:52PM (#47274931)
    Rehnquist wrote a very interesting book The Supreme Court that not only talks about the history of the court and some of its important cases (he did not include any cases that were decided by any judges that he served with), but he also described very nicely the day-to-day workings of a case moving through the system. I found it to be very interesting reading.

Honesty is for the most part less profitable than dishonesty. -- Plato