Posts Tagged: "computer software"

A Guide to Patenting Software: Getting Started

Any good patent application that covers a software related invention will need to put forth three specific pieces of information. First, you need to describe the overall computer architecture of the system within which the software will exist. Second, you need to prepare a single flowchart that depicts the overall working of the software. Third, you need to prepare a series of flow charts that show with painstaking detail the various routines and subroutines that together connect to create and deliver the complete functionality of the computer system as enabled by the software.

An Examination of Software Patents

Software patents, like all patents, are a form of innovation currency. They are also ecosystem enablers, and job creators. The innovation protected by software patents is highly integrated with hardware. All of it must remain eligible for protection. The current software patent “war” is hardly the first patent war—and unlikely to be the last in our nation’s patent history. Whenever breakthrough technologies come onto the scene, market players find themselves joined in the marketplace by new entrants. The first instinct of the breakthrough innovators is to bring patents into play. This is not only understandable, it is appropriate. Those who invest in breakthrough innovation have a right to expect others to respect their resultant IP. However, in the end, as history has shown time and time again, the players ultimately end up agreeing to pro-consumer solutions via licenses, cross-licenses or joint development agreements allowing core technologies to be shared.

The Illogic of the Algorithm Requirement for Software Patent Claims

Recently, patent scholar Mark Lemley has renewed attention to software claims under 35 U.S.C. 112, sixth paragraph. Lemley encourages strict application of the algorithm requirement to police software patents and resolve these concerns. Unlike Lemley, I am convinced that the algorithm requirement makes no sense. The problem is not that the concern about broad software claims is unjustified. The problem is that, even if the concern is justified, the algorithm requirement does not solve it. At least, the requirement does not solve the problem in an appropriate way.

All In! Doubling Down on Erroneous Attacks on the Federal Circuit

In a recently published article titled”The Federal Circuit, Not the Supreme Court, Legalized Software Patents,” Lee doubled down with his absurd and provably incorrect assertions regarding the patentability of software patents. But he also more or less sheepishly admitted that his reading of the most relevant case is not one that is widely accepted as correct by anyone other than himself. He wrote: “To be clear, plenty of people disagree with me about how Diehr should be interpreted.” Thus, Lee admits that his primary assertion is one he created from whole cloth and contrary to the widely held views to the contrary. Of course, the fact that his radical views are in the minority was conveniently omitted from his ?Ars Technica? article. If Lee has any integrity he will issue a public apology to the Federal Circuit and issue a retraction. If Lee doesn’t come to his senses and do the right thing in the face of overwhelming evidence that he is wrong then and Ars Technica should step in and do what needs to be done.

Lies, Damn Lies and Media Hatred of Patents (and the CAFC)

Indeed, few articles have struck a nerve in me quite the way that a recent Ars Technica article did. The article is titled How a rogue appeals court wrecked the patent system??. It is a cheap shot, factually inaccurate and embarrassingly incorrect “news” story that concludes the Federal Circuit is at the heart of all the problems in the patent system. A real Pinocchio tale. Ars Technica? should be ashamed at having published such an inaccurate attack piece. If they are not going to properly vet articles in advance of publication then what have they become? Little more than an online technology specific version of those tabloids with the salacious headings. The patent system is far to important to the U.S. economy and our way of life to suffer from that level of journalistic ignorance and bias.

Building Better Software Patent Applications: Embracing Means-Plus-Function Disclosure Requirements in the Algorithm Cases

The disclosure requirements for these types of patent applications has been a moving target for years, which means that whatever the most stringent disclosure requirements are should become the target regardless of the types of claims you file. To ensure your software patent application has appropriate disclosure of the invention you should accept — even embrace — the requirements for having an appropriate means-plus-function disclosure. By meeting the strict standards set forth in the mean-plus-function algorithm cases you will file more detailed applications that have better disclosure and which will undoubtedly support more claims, thus making the resulting patent or patents more valuable.

Beware Twitter’s New Patent Agreement Scheme

So Twitter can use the donated patents “defensively” to initiate a lawsuit if they feel threatened? If they deem it is otherwise necessary to deter a patent litigation? So Twitter can be the aggressor with the donated patents, and it seems like it is their sole discretion whether the threat or “otherwise” caveat are activated such as to allow them to go on the offensive. Incidentally, and interestingly, Twitter will have “all rights to recover damages for infringement…”

CAFC Kills Means-Plus-Function in Software Patent

All of this might be confusing to a Judge who is unfamiliar with computers, but that is not the test, is it? The question is supposed to be whether it would be confusing to a person of relevant skill in the relevant technology area. Indeed, disclosure sufficient for means-plus-function claiming may be implicit or inherent in the specification if it would have been clear to those skilled in the art what corresponds to the means-plus-function claim limitation. See MPEP 2181 and Atmel Corp. v. Information Storage Devices, Inc. (Fed. Cir. 1999). Indeed, the Federal Circuit in Atmel concluded that the title of the article incorporated by reference in the specification may, by itself, be sufficient to indicate to one skilled in the art the precise structure of the means for performing the recited function. So the focus is supposed to be on one of skill in the art even when interpreting whether the specification provides adequate support for means-plus-function claiming. Nowhere in the majority opinion is it stated that a person of skill in the art would not have known and would have found the claim vague or ambiguous.

The Software IP Detective: Infringement Detection in a Nutshell

When copying has occurred, much of the code may have changed by the time it’s examined due to the normal development process or to disguise the copying. For example identifiers may have been renamed, code reordered, instructions replaced with similar instructions, and so forth. However, perhaps one comment remains the same and it’s an unusual comment. Or a small sequence of critical instructions is identical. Correlation is designed to produce a relatively high value based on that comment or that sequence, to direct the detective toward that similarity. If correlation were simply a percentage of copied lines, the number could be small and thus missed entirely among the noise of normal similarities that occur in all programs.

A Patent for Software

What If you created an automobile engine that could deliver 500 miles per gallon of gasoline would you seek a patent? I suspect you would because that type of engine would almost certainly be revolutionary. So why wouldn’t you think about patenting a software system that more efficiently manages power consumption for a large office building? If you could reduce energy consumption by 25% wouldn’t that be noteworthy? Of course, and it should be patentable as well. Legally it doesn’t matter whether the advantage is created by an old world mechanical gadget or thanks to the constant monitoring and manipulation of parameters via a computer following instructions. Both are innovations and both are patentable, and rightly so.

The Impact of the CAFC’s Joint Infringement Conundrum on Protecting Interactive Technologies

The conundrum created by the Federal Circuit’s joint infringement doctrine and its impact on protecting interactive computer-based technologies got worse last week with McKesson Technologies, Inc. v. Epic Systems Corp. McKesson Technologies involved a patented interactive electronic method for communicating between healthcare providers and patients about personalized web pages for doctors. Judge Linn’s majority opinion (and a “thin” at majority at that) ruled that, because the initial step of the patented method was performed by the patient while the remaining steps were performed by the software provided by the healthcare provider, there was no infringement, direct, indirect, joint or otherwise of the patented method.

Learning from Apple Patent’s Newsreader for Mobile Devices

The patent application was originally filed June 28, 2007, and as a result of delay by the Patent and Trademark Office Apple will be entitled to a patent term that is extended by 830 days. While patent term extension seems to be a growing problem due to the backlog of applications, let’s not focus on the patent term, but rather look at the core of what is being protected and how this patent was obtained. I’m not going to defend the patentability of this invention, but rather try use this as an illustration of how to read a patent and search for clue in the file history regarding how and why claims are awarded. It should also demonstrate how easy it can be to distinguish prior art references and overcome rejections if you know what you are doing or are represented by someone who does.

The Problem with Software Patents? Uninformed Critics!

Listening to those who code complain about patents is nearly hysterical. They still haven’t figured out that by and large they are not innovators, but rather merely translators. Perhaps that is why they so frequently think that whatever they could have come up with themselves is hardly worthy of being patented. Maybe they are correct, but that doesn’t mean that an appropriately engineered system isn’t patentable, it just means that those who code are not nearly as likely to come up with such a system in the first place because they rarely, if ever, seem to approach a project as an engineer would. Rather, they jump right in and start coding. In the engineering world that is a recipe for disaster, and probably explains why so much software that we pay so much money for today is hardly worthy of being called a beta, much less a finished product.

Patent Drafting: Defining Computer Implemented Processes

So what information is required in order to demonstrate that there really is an invention that deserves to receive a patent? When examining computer implemented inventions the patent examiner will determine whether the specification discloses the computer and the algorithm (e.g., the necessary steps and/or flowcharts) that perform the claimed function in sufficient detail such that one of ordinary skill in the art can reasonably conclude that the inventor invented the claimed subject matter. An algorithm is defined by the Patent Offices as a finite sequence of steps for solving a logical or mathematical problem or performing a task. The patent application may express the algorithm in any understandable terms including as a mathematical formula, in prose, in a flow chart, or in any other manner that provides sufficient structure. In my experience, flow charts that are described in text are the holy grail for these types of applications. In fact, I just prepared a provisional patent application for an inventor and we kept trading flow charts until we had everything we needed. Iterative flow charting creates a lot of detail and the results provide a tremendous disclosure.

Don’t Steal My Avatar! Challenges of Social Networking Patents

What do you think of my jumping buddy over there? Let’s call him “George”. George is just one example of the enormous number of inventions being made to serve our newly emerging social networking economy. George was created using a patent pending process called Evolver. He’s an avatar that can be transported to any number of different full immersion virtual world networking sites. Many new companies are forming to commercialize these new social networking innovations. They are also filing patent applications. They have many challenges ahead of them to get those patents.