Alice kills trolls

The effects of Alice Corp. v CLS Bank are beginning to be seen and they highlight the landmark status of the case. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, previously considered by many to be strongly pro-patent, has now used the Alice decision to resolve large numbers of patent cases by finding the software patents in question to be invalid. In fact, even lower courts are beginning to use Alice to strike down patent cases, declaring them invalid because of unpatentable subject matter.

Of course, the patent trolls are not going to be caught sleeping. Conceding that Alice invalidates many of their cases, pro-patent advocates will now begin hunting ways to get around the ruling. As software patent consultant Bob Zeidman said “every time there’s a court ruling it just means that you have to word the patent claims differently.” This might well mean adding function claims to patents, a move which also significantly limits their disruptive power. Perhaps that’s a compromise open source developers could live with, but let’s not let our guards down. In the meantime though, I propose a toast, “to Alice”.

For more on this topic, read Simon’s article on InfoWorld.

Software Patent Supreme Court Case Begins

Alice Corporation v. CLS Bank, the landmark case over the legality of software patents, has reached the U.S. Supreme Court. The journey to get there has been long and drawn out, but now that it’s being discussed by SCOTUS, what are the chances that their eventual decision will be broad, decisive and clear? Simon’s been looking over the transcript of Monday’s hearing in an attempt to assess the direction the questioning seems to be taking.

Highlighting “a good deal of apparent scepticism” on the part of the Justices, Simon picks out a number of quotes in which the Justices state and restate the problem, seemingly unsatisfied by the response each time. One Justice Scalia statement helps us understand the core of the problem under discussion: “If you just say ‘use a computer,’ you haven’t invented anything.” Despite this scepticism, Chief Justice Roberts expressed doubts that their  ruling will “bring about greater clarity and certainty,” and this wasn’t the only sign that the court might be reluctant to provide the strong clarification the Solicitor General asked for and that the technology economy needs.

Read Simon’s full analysis of the hearing on InfoWorld.