Posts Tagged: "patent eligibility"

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.

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.”

Help for the Supreme Court in CLS Bank

my iPhone can be a bell that you physically shake and it goes “ding” like a hotel desk bell; or it can be a carpenter’s level to help hang pictures, level a cabinet; or, it can be a compass that swings this way and that just like the one from a long ago scouting exercise; or it can be a flashlight. Clearly, one can patent a bell, level, or compass in whatever form it exists, it is a device. That much is not in dispute. But, what about the “code” that creates that “device”. It is now that we have the conundrum: is software (the code that both creates and instructs the machine) patentable apart from the machine? The answer to this question, when phrased in this way, is self-evident; yes, of course it is patentable. For the same reasons machines have always been patentable, they are a part of the “useful” arts. You see, the software is the machine. The machine is software. These are one in the same “thing”. If this is all so simple, then what is the argument about?

Patent Eligibility in Unsettled Times

Today, after several years of substantial turmoil, patent eligibility in a variety of economically significant technologies is extremely uncertain, including software, natural products, medical diagnostics and personalized medicine. It is with great irony that one of the few things we know with any degree of certainty is that business methods are patent eligible… If you haven’t noticed, overwhelming portions of the U.S. economy are tied to the biotechnology and software sectors. Are we about to throw away our economic leadership? There are already some lawyers talking openly with clients about whether they may be able to in some cases actually get broader, more certain protection outside the United States.

Divided CAFC Finds Computer System Claims Patent Ineligible

Not surprisingly, the decision of the latest Federal Circuit case on software patent eligibility – Accenture Global Services, GMBH v. Guidewire Software, Inc. – could be predicted from the makeup of the CAFC panel. Judge Lourie, joined by Judge Reyna, issued the majority opinion that the system claims were invalid. The Court followed the analysis for determining patent eligibility from CLS Bank, 717 F.3d 1269 (Fed. Cir. 2013) and affirmed the district court’s finding that the system claims of U.S. Patent No. 7,013,284 (“the ‘284 patent”) were ineligible. Judge Rader predictably dissented from the majority and stated that he would hold the system claims to be patent-eligible subject matter. One takeaway from this decision is that the Court remains predictably divided. In this case, all three judges on the panel ruled in a way that was consistent with their ruling in CLS Bank, 717 F.3d 1269 (Fed. Cir. 2013).

AIA Oddities: Tax Strategy Patents and Human Organisms

In perhaps lesser known fashion Congress made two significant, but limited, statutory changes to what is considered patent eligible subject matter. In a bizarre circumstance Congress chose not to render tax strategy patents patent ineligible under 35 U.S.C. 101. Rather they chose a far more convoluted route. Tax strategy patents are still patent eligible subject matter pursuant to Section 101, but for purposes of evaluating an invention under section 102 or 103 of title 35, any strategy for reducing, avoiding, or deferring tax liability, whether known or unknown at the time of the invention or application for patent, is deemed insufficient to differentiate a claimed invention from the prior art.

Software May be Patented in Asia, but the Details Remain Unclear

As in the U.S., when drafting claims in China, one must describe the invention sufficiently to enable a person skilled in the art to make and use the claimed invention. For software patents, a flow chart and explanation should be included, along with drawings and description of associated hardware. Portions of the source code may be included for reference. Software claims may be drafted as either method or apparatus claims. However, Justin Shi, patent attorney at Sony Mobile Communications in Beijing, warns that apparatus claims may be deemed invalid if they are phrased only in means-plus-function language and fail to describe the apparatus or its embodiments.