Posts Tagged: "SCOTUS"

SCOTUS Overrules Federal Circuit on Induced Infringement

Akamai argued Limelight ”provides instructions and offers technical assistance” to its customers regarding how to tag. The Federal Circuit dodged the question about whether there was direct infringement under 35 U.S.C. 271(a), but instead found that there was induced infringement under 35 U.S.C. 271(b). The problem with this ruling was that it was a legal impossibility. Well settled law had long stood for the proposition that there can be no induced infringement if there is not indirect infringement. Thus, this bizarre ruling by the Federal Circuit had those in the patent community scratching their head. It was easy to predict a Supreme Court reversal.

SCOTUS Overrules “Insolubly Ambigous” Indefiniteness Standard

The district court determined that the term was indefinite, the Federal Circuit reversed. According to the Federal Circuit, a claim is indefinite “only when it is not amenable to construction or insolubly ambiguous.” Under that standard, the majority determined, the ’753 patent survived and was not indefinite. The Supreme Court characterized this test as the Federal Circuit tolerating “some ambiguous claims but not others.”

Disbanding the Federal Circuit is a Bad Idea

Given the anti-patent climate that has been created by major Silicon Valley technology companies, the Obama Administration and certain Members of Congress, the news that Judge Rader will step down as Chief Judge comes at a difficult time… While I do hope the Federal Circuit can find common ground, there is no doubt that making sense of Supreme Court precedent on patent law issues is virtually impossible. The remedy for this is not to dismantle the Federal Circuit. The remedy would be for the Supreme Court to get a clue, or to take patent cases only to the extent that there is an irreconcilable split within the Federal Circuit. That would be far more consistent with the intent of the Federal Circuit when it was created.

Why E-mail & Word Processing Were Not Computer-Implemented Inventions: A Response to Alice v CLS Bank Oral Arguments

Certain things are obvious. It was obvious in the oral arguments that it was a challenge for both the Supreme Court judges and the lawyers to distinguish between abstract ideas, ideas, computer programs, technological innovations, patentable subject matter, and inventions. This confusion also showed up in the seven different written opinions of the judges in the Appeals Court review of this same case… Mr. Perry was wrong about word processing and e-mail. Providing a “technical solution to a then unmet problem” and providing a “technological advance” often does not constitute making an invention. That’s because with computers you can often make a technical advance that is obvious.

Easing the Standard for Recovering Attorney Fees in Patent Cases

I think that the Supreme Court decision will be enough to prevent the so-called “patent reform” from gaining any traction in the Senate. The cynical view is that there is so much lobbying money flowing why would Congress want to turn that spigot off when it could easily flow into the next Congressional term? Further, there has been a growing and steady effort by those opposed to the pending patent legislation. Opponents were already making their case heard as the Senate continued to time after time postpone dissemination of the Manager’s Amendment, signaling the consensus that some Senators desperately wanted to reach was illusive, if not impossible. Now with the Supreme Court decisions in these two cases those on the Hill who were already skeptical have more than enough ammunition to slam on the brakes, at least for now, to see what the ultimate ramifications of the decisions will be on the reality of patent litigation.

Supremes Say Broad Discretion to District Courts to Award Attorneys Fees

35 U.S.C. § 285, which is an extremely short statute, authorizes a district court to award attorney’s fees in patent litigation to the prevailing party. In its totality, § 285 states: “[t]he court in exceptional cases may award reasonable attorney fees to the prevailing party.” With such a simple statute you might wonder how or why it was necessary for the Supreme Court to step in and provide clarity. Because in 2005 the Federal Circuit departed from three decades of case law and made it difficult, if not impossible, for prevailing parties to demonstrate entitlement to attorneys fees.

The “Useful Arts” in the Modern Era: For SCOTUS on CLS Bank

Many, many, many patents have issued to cover the physical elements and intuitive steps to make this familiar sequence possible and increasingly reliable and refined. Mechanical elements, i.e., rotating shafts with a gears on each end, have been replaced by a toothed wheel and magnetic sensor and a wire, but the information about where the engine is in its cycle of rotation is the same… To illustrate to the lay person that just because software is the ”tool” being used to “do” things, we are still ”doing” the same things in the same ways for the same reasons. To wit: That, in the modern era, the execution of the ”useful arts” is done using software does not change what is done or the fact that it is a ”useful art”; and, the patentability thereof should be unaffected simply because we ”do” it differently now as compared with how we ”did” it then.

Infringement of Method Claim Shouldn’t Require a Single Entity

AIPLA believes that the so-called “single entity” rule for deciding method claim infringement under 35 U.S.C. § 271(a), where multiple actors perform the claim steps, as set out in recent Federal Circuit panel decisions as well as in the instant case, is based both on an incorrect construction of Section 271(a) and of the statutory structure of Section 271 as a whole. In concluding that only principles of agency law determine the ambit of such infringement liability, the Federal Circuit has mistakenly strayed from the traditional tort law basis of patent infringement and has created loopholes for method claim infringement that drastically reduce the exclusive rights conferred by validly issued patents – it has, in effect, reduced the scope of method patents until they have little relevancy… Direct infringement should not be limited only to an agency-type relationship between parties…

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.