Be Happy: Software Patents Are Rapidly Disappearing Thanks To The Supreme Court
from the another-one-gone-and-another-one-gone dept
We’ve written a few times lately about the fact that the Supreme Court’s decision in Alice v. CLS Bank seems to have finally broken the dam in getting courts to recognize that most software isn’t patentable. We’ve covered three post-Alice cases where courts cited Alice in dumping the patent as covering unpatentable subject matter. And the numbers keep going up. Tim Lee, over at Vox, has now noted that there are at least 11 such rulings in the past few months, which reject patents, citing Alice. He’s got the list of all 11, but my favorite is the one from just a few days ago, where the court not only rejected the patent citing Alice, but also pointed to the movies Superman III and Office Space. If you hadn’t guessed by now (or if you hadn’t seen those movies), the patent involved shaving a tiny bit off of a whole lot of transactions by “rounding up” and then making use of the extra pennies or fractions of pennies. The court points out that this is an abstract idea, and one that has been around for a long, long time. Simply putting it on a computer is not patentable.
As if slamming home just how important this decision is, former top patent judge Randall Rader, who left the court earlier this year in the midst of an ethics scandal, has apparently spoken out about how awful a decision he believes Alice to have been. Though, he’s even more down on the ruling in Prometheus Labs v. Mayo Clinic, which was where the Supreme Court rejected patents on medical diagnostics, setting up the ruling in Alice, effectively rejecting most software patents. Rader is apparently furious about these decisions:
When asked how he would feel if he were a software developer, he commented: ?I find the landscape for software innovation protection after Alice to be much more disturbing and less encouraging.? He also compared the opinion in Alice to the Supreme Court?s opinion in Mayo v Prometheus which he described as ?probably the single most disappointing case in world patent jurisprudence?.
?It causes me great pain to recognise the worst case in patent law history doesn’t come out of India or Pakistan or Vietnam or China even, it comes from the United States as recently as a few years ago,? Rader stated.
And yet, here in Silicon Valley, where there are plenty of software developers, most seem to be rejoicing about the newly found freedom to innovate without having to worry about being hit by a bogus patent lawsuit (or, at the very least, having a reasonable chance of beating it back, thanks to these decisions).