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Posts Tagged: "CLS Bank"

Missed Opportunities for Alice, Software at the Supreme Court

It seems undeniable that Alice missed many opportunities to score easy points. Indirect arguments were made by Alice that didn’t seem very persuasive. Indeed, if one is to predict the outcome of the case based on oral arguments alone it did not go well for Alice today. Only three things give Alice supporters hope after this oral argument as far as I can tell. First, the government seems to be asking the Supreme Court to overrule precedent in Bilski that is not even four years old, which simply isn’t going to happen. Second, the egregious overreach and outright misleading nature of the CLS Bank argument should raise a legitimate question or two in the mind of the Justices. Third, the reality simply is that at least the systems claims recite numerous specific, tangible elements such that it should be impossible to in any intellectually honest way find those claims to cover an abstract idea.

Prelude to SCOTUS Oral Arguments in Alice v. CLS Bank, Part 3

BEAR: ”When the Constitution was written, there was no concept of software. Nor was there computer hardware. We had physical, you know, very physical mechanical inventions. And computers have come around and software has come around, and the interpretation of these statutes has had to shift with the technology. And as unimaginable as it may seem to us here in 2014, there’s something in our future as unimaginable as software was when the Constitution was written. Inventions in that future domain need to not be shut down because of the way we rule today on §101. So the request for not having a real hard line – a bright line – is important. It protects the possibility of fostering future inventions in domains we can’t even imagine.”

Prelude to SCOTUS Oral Arguments in Alice v. CLS Bank, Part 2

BEAR: ”[T]here’s an amusing little brief worth visiting. It’s by a number of companies including LinkedIn, Netflix, Twitter, Yelp and Rackspace – whom I respect and appreciate as innovators – and takes a fairly radical stance. I believe it’s important for anyone reading along to be studying briefs on all sides. Their main approach is to establish that software patents are not only not necessary, but hinder innovation. While positioning themselves to be seen as utopian, the politics strike me as appealing to the fearful, emotionally insecure side of people. Twitter represents that they are recruiting engineers based on a purported fact that they don’t want to engage in offensive patenting. It seems intentionally misleading and inviting reactionary public support. Let me read you a sentence. It says, “Both trade secret and copyright law already protect software and effectively prevent both wrongful use and explicit copying by others.” As if, somehow, that addresses the issues at hand.”

Alice at Court: Stepping Through the Looking Glass – Part II

There is a further gulf between those who view In re Alappat as sound logic and engineering (ABL, AIPLA, Alice, Mr. Ronald Benrey, BSA, CCIA, Mr. Dale Cook, Prof. of Computer Science Lee A. Hollaar, IEEE-USA, Microsoft) and those who it as mistaken (Electronic Frontier Foundation, Prof. Robin Feldman, Red Hat) and primarily responsible for an increase in such patents (Electronic Frontier Foundation, Google, “Law, Business and Economics Scholars”). The IEEE-USA provides an excellent analysis of the relationship between software and hardware, pointing out the incontrovertible principle of equivalency, that “special-purpose programming of general-purpose hardware” is “equivalent to special-purpose hardware,” though IEEE-USA fails to mention that this is a fundamental principle of computer science, as established by Alan Turing in the 1930s. To assert, as does the EFF, that the Federal Circuit “concocted” the equivalency of hardware and software goes beyond denying the foundational work of Turing and others. The equivalency of software and hardware is what makes it possible for Java to run on any type of computer using the Java Virtual Machine, as well the electronic design automation industry, which enables complex electronic circuits to be entirely designed in software before being implemented in hardware.

Prelude to SCOTUS Oral Arguments in Alice v. CLS Bank: A Software Conversation with Eric Gould Bear

Eric Gould Bear is an inventor on over 100 patents and patent applications and a testifying expert witness for patent infringement cases. He is an expert in the software/patent space, and has seen the industry from multiple different angles over the years. With the oral argument in Alice v. CLS Bank scheduled for Monday, March 31, 2014, Bear and I spoke on the record about the issues, using as our focal point several of the high profile amici briefs filed… In part 1 we discuss the false distinction between hardware and software, and Bear goes into deal with examples, saying at one point that most of the innovation today relates to software. He also takes issue with the ACLU amicus brief, calling it “embarrassing.”

Alice at Court: Stepping Through the Looking Glass of the Merits Briefs in Alice v. CLS Bank – Part I

The fractured views of the world begin with the question presented, and reflect how different parties frame the debate in very different terms. Alice’s merits brief presents the question before the Court as “whether claims to computer implemented inventions…are patent-eligible.” Putting the question this way allows Alice to place its inventions and claims in the larger context of all computer-implemented inventions, the subtext being that if the Supreme Court holds that computer-implemented inventions are patent eligible—which is a fair bet—then Alice’s patents should be valid. Further, phrasing it this way allows Alice to distance itself from pure business method claims from the invalid claims in Bilski v. Kappos.

Dissecting the Software Patent Amici in Support of CLS Bank

Supporters of CLS Bank have largely responded that software patents hurt innovation. But that can’t be! One of the areas critics always say has been allegedly hamstrung by patents, the smartphones industry, is barely over 6 years old. Have patents stopped innovation of smartphones? Hardly. In fact, with every new version companies tout just how much more the phones do and how they are so far superior to the previous model. Thus, it is easy to see that those claiming that software patents block innovation simply ignore market reality and how the functionality of current devices (which is thanks to software) match up with previous generations of devices over the last 6 years. Corporate critics must also ignore their own marketing of new smartphones, which directly contradicts the ridiculous claim that software patents are preventing innovation. Still they make these and other specious arguments as if they are true.

Software Patent Amici in Support of Petitioner Alice Corporation

That only three briefs are filed in support of Alice Corporation is a little misleading in this case, however, since many of the briefs that were filed in support of neither party come out and directly support the patent eligibility of software. For example, the IBM amicus brief, which was filed in support of neither party, concludes that a Section 101 patent eligibility analysis is the wrong analysis to use in this and similar cases since the abstract idea doctrine is unworkable and yet to be defined by the Supreme Court. IBM suggests the Court use Section 103, the obvious analysis and the well developed case law under KSR, to determine patentability in this and similar cases. Thus, while IBM did not take a position on the specific merits of the case, as with many of the briefs filed, if the Supreme Court were to follow the IBM counsel it would lead to an Alice victory. Even Microsoft/Adobe/HP, which does not support Alice on these claims urged the Supreme Court to find software patent eligible. Thus, characterizing the position of the amici based on whether the support Alice, support CLS Bank or support neither party has proved quite difficult in this matter.

Misnomers, Myths, Misunderstandings and Misconceptions about Software Patents

By Martin Goetz, inventor on the first software patent granted by the USPTO: “Much of this negativism is based on the poor job the US patent examiners have done in weeding out those many patent applications where the so-called invention is just one of the almost infinite, but obvious, ways one can automate a manual or semi-automatic process or procedure. But there are also true inventions that use a computer as part, or all, of the implementation of the invention. There is no reason to throw out the baby with the bathwater. So it is of utmost importance that we examine the many falsehoods related to software patents.”

Amici Urge Caution on Software Patents at the Supreme Court

Chief Judge Michel’s brief makes two major recommendations regarding the essential question of software’s patentability. First, Michel states that the criteria for patent eligibility under Section 101 should only exclude those inventions that are clearly patent-ineligible… In his conclusion, Michel argues that, although all patent applications must first be reviewed under Section 101 for eligibility, the evaluations that take place under Sections 102, 103 and 112 should be applied in the overwhelming majority of patent validity cases. In the case of an implied exclusion under Section 101, as in this case, ineligibility should only be applied in the clearest cases where the patent would preempt the most fundamental building blocks of technology.

Software: The Heart and Soul of Many Innovative Advances

Broadly construing and applying the abstract ideas exception would jeopardize countless patents and patent-fostered innovations that are providing real, tangible benefits to all levels of society, and that are helping to fuel the domestic and global economies. Indeed, it is impossible to overstate the economic importance of software and other computer- implemented inventions. Virtually all industries now use computer-implemented inventions in some way… Notably, and notwithstanding the alarmist complaints of some interested parties that are most dependent upon computer-implemented technologies, high-tech industries are neither stagnating nor suffering from a dearth of innovation. To the contrary, these industries are highly competitive, vibrant fonts of innovation and economic vitality. The availability of patent protection for computer-implemented inventions has been a spur, not a bane, to their growth and development.

Twilight Zone: The Solicitor General’s Brief in Alice v. CLS Bank

… in order to handle the messy reality that the system claims, illustrated above, are clearly not abstract under any intellectually honest definition, they merely say that if the method and computer readable medium claims are not patent eligible neither are the system claims because… well just because. It seems inventions rise and fall based on what the applicant really wants to protect, not the claims… Assuming you have snapped back from the Twilight Zone yourself you may be hearing in your head the clanking of coconuts as several Monty Python players exit stage left in search for the holy grail! Of course, regardless of whether the coconuts migrate, those coconuts are are obviously abstract and not tangible, clearly not patent eligible and a fiction of your imagination. Therefore, you really can’t be hearing the coconut clanking noise because imaginary non-migratory coconuts that don’t exist can’t be banged together to make a sound.

Supreme Court “Abstract Idea Doctrine” is Unworkable

The reason the abstract idea doctrine is unworkable is because the Supreme Court has never defined what is an abstract idea. The Supreme Court has treated the term “abstract idea” much as they have the term “obscenity”; they know it when they see it. Such a level of subjectivity leads to chaos, which is exactly how the Judges on the Federal Circuit can manage to find themselves evenly split on the issue of whether software is patent eligible. The Supreme Court abhors bright line rules unless they are the ones who announce them. Such an irrational fear of certainty and predictability is curious given how those concepts are so fundamentally important to a functioning judicial system. Still, if they don’t like bright line rules that everyone can follow as announced by the Federal Circuit they at least owe us a workable test that they are willing to endorse.

Part 2: A Conversation with Chisum and Mueller

MUELLER: “I think a lot is going to ride on what we see going forward from the PTAB, for example decisions in post grant review. Will those decisions be high quality and will the courts respect them? We know that the Office has hired some really good folks but they’ve also been hampered by the sequestration. I’m delighted that Michelle Lee has taken the reins. I sure hope that’s going to be permanent. I think she’ll do an outstanding job and be highly respected. But I also think a lot of attention is going to be paid to what happens as those post grant review decisions start coming out.”

A Conversation with Donald Chisum and Janice Mueller

CHISUM: “I’m very skeptical when Congress starts talking about reform. I don’t think there is enough sophistication in Congress and among committee staff members about how the patent system really operates and about the challenges the many thousands of people operating the system face. Most of the legislative efforts I’ve seen over the last 30 years to reform the patent system, in fact, reformed very little. The “reforms” have tended to respond to particular interest groups, to particular complainants. Congress has tended to respond only to a consensus that something was wrong rather than thinking outside the box as to what will really improve the efficiency and predictability of the patent system.”