by Mike Masnick
Wed, Aug 1st 2007 2:17am
Back in April, the Supreme Court made an important decision raising the bar for what would be considered "non-obvious" in patents. Given the incredible increase in obvious patents (and the businesses being built up to use those patents to hinder, rather than help, innovation) this was a huge victory for those worried about how the patent system was harming innovation. It looks like this KSR v. Teleflex ruling is already having an impact. In 2003, we wrote about Friskit, a patent hoarding company that was suing Real Networks over what looked like three obvious patents dealing with searching a network for streaming media. A judge had let the case move forward, but with the Supreme Court's ruling, the judge has changed his mind, saying that the patents were obvious. The judge based his decision on the KSR decision, saying that the patents were simply a combination of ideas and inventions that were all publicly available -- and combining them was an obvious next step. This is exactly what the Supreme Court intended, and hopefully more judges will start following suit in throwing out these wasteful patents and patent lawsuits. Amusingly, the article quotes a patent attorney (of course) complaining that somehow this will bring about more lawsuits -- but that's not necessarily true. The massive increase in patent litigation over the past few years has been because the USPTO and the courts were approving and enforcing so many questionable patents, making it seem like a good business to simply hoard patents and threaten lawsuits. If the courts make it clear that such bogus patents will get tossed quickly it will create less incentive for bogus patents to be filed and for bogus patent suits to be brought in the first place.
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