Posts Tagged: "software patents"

Call for Amici: Whatever You Think of In re Killian, Patent Owners Deserve Clarity

[Editor’s Note: Bud Mathis is counsel for Killian]. The average attorney reading the recent opinion penned by Judge Chen and joined by Judges Taranto and Clevenger in In re Killian (Appeal 21-2113) might agree with Judge Chen’s conclusion that, “[w]hile there are close cases under the Alice/Mayo standard, the ’042 application does not present such a close case[.]” To this statement, I, Killian’s counsel, respond that, every time any claim comes close, the Federal Circuit engages in a predictable fiction in which the court: (1) announces that a claim is directed to “a something” described in such a broad and vague manner that “the something” barely resembles the claim at issue, (2) declares that “the something” that barely resembles the claim at issue is “abstract” based on no evidence or analysis, and then (3) declares that the remaining claim limitations lack an inventive concept.

‘Software Ownership is Killing Innovation’—Controversial Author Calls for a Reboot

Creative destruction, once a hallmark of progressive capitalism, is no longer working. Powerful companies that control software and silo valuable data are impeding innovation and threatening society. That is the conclusion of a recently published book, The New Goliaths: How Corporations Use Software to Dominate Industries, Kill Innovation, and Undermine Regulation. The author, James Bessen, vilifies the impact of software ownership and the ability of patents and other rights to effectively promote innovation and encourage competition.

The Supreme Court is Set to Hear a Copyright Case with Big Implications for U.S. Tech Innovation

The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) is set to hear Andy Warhol v. Lynn Goldsmith in October. It will be the latest in a series of cases the Court has taken on over the last decade-plus that promise to change U.S. innovation as we know it. The case will be heard on the heels of other controversial SCOTUS decisions that have drastically changed the legal landscape, with rulings that transfer power from the federal government to the individual states (Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization) or that reduce federal oversight altogether (West Virginia v. EPA). It has also put limits on specific executive powers and plans to rule soon on affirmative action. Not getting as much attention, but arguably equally important, are some recent and not-so-recent decisions that have changed the landscape of the rights of authors and inventors, and the upcoming Warhol case, which may effectively remove them altogether. Unfortunately, many people, including politicians and academics, don’t understand—or refuse to recognize the importance of—intellectual property rights for the advancement of civilization.

How to Protect Your Company When Using Open Source Software

Today’s software is built like a Lego model. Instead of a singularly developed string of code, multiple building blocks of existing code are used to create a codebase. Some of those building blocks are developed in-house by the software vendor. Others are developed by third-party commercial software providers. And a lot of them come from open-source projects. When you’re a company that puts that codebase into your final product, you must take precautions to minimize the risks that each type of code presents to you and to your customers. This is what is meant by protecting your software supply chain. It’s also how you maximize the value of the code for you and your customers. Each type of code has its own set of benefits and risks that need to be understood and managed. This article addresses just one type of those building blocks: open source software (OSS).

CAFC Says Dyfan Claim Limitations are Not Invalid Due to Means-Plus-Function Format

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) reversed and remanded a decision by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas that Dyfan, LLC’s claims were invalid as indefinite. The CAFC concluded that the disputed claim limitations were not drafted in means-plus-function format, and therefore 35 U.S.C. § 112 ¶ 6 did not apply. Patent owner Dyfan sued Target Corp. for infringement of various claims of U.S. Patent Nos. 9,973,899 and 10,194,292. Following a claim construction hearing, the district court found that the disputed (1) “code”/“application” limitations and (2) “system” limitations of the patents-in-suit were invalid as indefinite. Specifically, the district court found that: (1) these claim limitations of the patents-in-suit are in means-plus-function format under Section 112 ¶ 6 and (2) the specification does not disclose sufficient structure corresponding to the recited functions. Dyfan subsequently appealed.

U.S. Patent Grants Fell 7% Last Year, but ‘Software-Related’ Grants Remained at 63%

As an update to my posts from 2017, 2019, 2020, March 2021, and August 2021, it has now been 93 months since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank decision. Yet the debate still rages over when a software (or computer-implemented) claim is patentable versus being simply an abstract idea “free to all men and reserved exclusively to none” (as eloquently phrased over 73 years ago by then-Supreme Court Justice Douglas in Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kalo Inoculant Co.). Further, it has been 11 years since famed venture capitalist Marc Andreessen wrote the influential and often-quoted op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal titled “Why Software Is Eating the World.” Today, the digital transformation where software is “eating the world” is undeniable. Let’s look at some facts and figures from the USA, Europe, and China.

IPWatchdog LIVE Panel Asks if Federal Circuit is Killing Software Patents and Answers Definitively, ‘Yes’

On Day 2 of IPWatchdog LIVE, a lively morning panel was convened on the subject of “Is the Federal Circuit Killing Software Patents?” Though that question was answered in the first few seconds of the panel session, the following hour of discussion yielded various ideas on how disastrous jurisprudence on Section 101 subject matter eligibility could be addressed at the Federal Circuit. Speaking on this panel was Robert Stoll, Co-Chair of the IP Group at Faegre Drinker and Former Commissioner of Patents, USPTO; Russ Slifer, Principal at Schwegman Lundberg & Woessner and Former Deputy Director, USPTO; Raymond Millien, CEO at Harness Dickey; and Benjamin Cappel, Partner at AddyHart P.C.

Building High-Quality Patent Portfolios in the United States and Europe: Part II – Software Patents

In Part I of this series, we discussed how patent portfolio managers should be careful when generating company-owned prior art or reviewing competitor prior art, and how a patent litigation or licensing campaign can be significantly hamstrung based on how the United States and Europe consider intervening prior art. In Part II, we will focus on software patents with U.S. and EP family members. The number of software related patent applications that are filed at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and European Patent Office (EPO) continues to increase despite heightened scrutiny during examination. Further, U.S. courts and national courts in Europe continue to critically analyze the eligibility of software patents.

In First Half of 2021, 63% of U.S. Patents, 48.9% at EPO and 40.1% in China Were Software-Related

As an update to my posts from 2017, 2019, 2020, and March 2021, it has now been 86 months since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank decision. Yet the debate still rages over when a software (or computer-implemented) claim is patentable versus being simply an abstract idea “free to all men and reserved exclusively to none” (as eloquently phrased over 73 years ago by then-Supreme Court Justice Douglas in Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kalo Inoculant Co.). Further, it has been 10 years since famed venture capitalist Marc Andreessen wrote the influential and often-quoted op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal titled “Why Software Is Eating the World.” Today, the digital transformation where software is “eating the world” is undeniable. Let’s look at some facts and figures from the USA, Europe and China.

Seven Years After Alice, 63.2% of the U.S. Patents Issued in 2020 were Software-Related

As an update to my posts from 2017, 2019, and 2020, it has now been more than seven years since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank decision. Yet the debate still rages over when a software (or computer-implemented) claim is patentable versus being simply an abstract idea “free to all men and reserved exclusively to none” (as eloquently phrased over 73 years ago by then-Supreme Court Justice Douglas in Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kalo Inoculant Co.). Further, it has been 10 years since famed venture capitalist Marc Andreessen wrote an influential op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal titled “Why Software Is Eating the World.” This digital transformation where software is “eating the world” is undeniable.

Massive Jury Verdict for VLSI Sets Stage for ‘Efficient Infringement’ Debate

On Tuesday, March 2, a jury verdict  entered into the Western District of Texas awarded $2.175 billion in damages to VLSI Technologies for patent infringement committed by multinational tech firm Intel. The verdict, which includes one of the largest damages amounts ever awarded for patent infringement in a U.S. district court, comes less than two years after VLSI began the lawsuit and arguably marks an important milestone in the effort to address corporate business models employing “efficient infringement” techniques to earn dominant market positions, not as innovators, but as tech implementers.

Drawing Software Patent Drafting Guidance in 2021 from an Unlikely Source: the Federal Circuit

Since the Supreme Court’s Alice decision in 2014, inventors have faced extra hurdles trying to protect their software-related inventions with patents. A chief obstacle has been satisfying the two-part test for eligibility under Section 101 set forth in Alice and Mayo. To meet this test, claimed subject matter must not be directed to a judicial exception, such as an abstract idea, (Step One), and if it is, must add “significantly more” to provide an inventive concept (Step Two)…. Theodore Rand reported in IPWatchdog last week, a disturbing but not surprising trend. Rand found that, in 2020, 81% of software-related patents on appeal for subject matter eligibility in decided precedential cases (22 of 27) were found invalid. But in three cases, software-related patents were found drawn to eligible subject matter for patent purposes. Id. In each of the three cases, the appeals court pointed to aspects of the patent specifications themselves. Looking more closely at the representative claims and court’s comments with respect to the corresponding patent specification is illuminating. In particular, the court looked to the specifications for evidence of performance improvements over conventional systems, description of a technical problem/solution, and technological advantages.

Alice in 2020: Slashing Software Patents and Searching for Functional Language at the Federal Circuit (Part II)

In Part I of this article, I explained that the CAFC invalidated almost every software patent on appeal for eligibility in 2020 and recapped the first 13 such cases of the year. Despite the many software eligibility cases decided last year, there is still some uncertainty about what passes muster under the Alice two-step framework. Below is a recap of the remaining 14 cases considered by the CAFC in 2020 with respect to software patent eligibility.

Alice in 2020: Slashing Software Patents and Searching for Functional Language at the Federal Circuit (Part I)

Last year was an active one at the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) for software eligibility. It also was a brutal year for patent owners, as the CAFC invalidated almost every software patent on appeal for eligibility. Despite the many cases decided last year, there is still some uncertainty about what passes muster under the Alice two-step framework promulgated by the Supreme Court in 2014. But one thing that has become increasingly clear is that the CAFC wants to see how a particular result is achieved or how a problem is solved. This desire for a “how” or rule set from the claims creates an evident tension with the traditional notion that patent claims should recite structure, not functional language. These recent CAFC cases have also made it clear that courts will look to the specification for implementation details, even if these details do not emerge in the claims. This analysis has previously been reserved for the written description requirement under Section 112 but found its way into the Alice two-step.

Uniloc v. LG Shows that Broad Software Claims are Patent Eligible, Highlights the Perils of Concession

The Federal Circuit’s recent Uniloc v. LG Electronics decision (April 30, 2020) may be very helpful for subject matter eligibility. This Federal Circuit panel (Moore, Reyna & Taranto) held software patent claims to be patent eligible subject matter. I find the decision clearly written, with many interesting aspects. What strikes me most, though, is that seemingly very broad software patent claims were held eligible. Additionally, the decision highlights the perils of concession in a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.