U.S. Supreme Court building... (via USGOV & wiki)
When it comes to software patents, the waters are pretty murky and there’s an obscure line between what can and cannot be patented. The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) has defined a software patent as a ‘patent on any performance of a computer realized by means of a computer program’, however there is no legal definition currently on the law books. In the US, current patent laws regarding software excludes ‘abstract ideas’, natural phenomena and laws of nature, which has been used in the past to refuse a few of those software patents.
In an effort to address the issue of patented subject matter, or lack thereof, the US Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case brought about by Alice Corporation Pty Ltd against CLS Bank International. Alice currently holds a number of patents for their computer system that implements financial transaction invented back in the 90’s, which they claim were violated by CLS Bank. CLS claims that four of those patents are invalid and several lower courts have favored them regarding those patents, however some, including some tech giants such as Google, Hulu and YouTube along with the Electronic Frontier Foundation found those judgments to be lacking due to the vague interpretation of current patent laws.
Those entities claim that the previous judgments were ambiguous at best with no clear terms for their basis, which would leave lower courts with no clear way of handling software patent cases, especially when it comes to ‘software patent trolls’ (companies who own the patents solely for suing other companies looking to expand on those patents). Hopefully the Supreme Court can come to an agreement over abstract ideas and finally layout specific guidelines regarding software patents so that companies can keep their property safe and secure without the need for frivolous litigation that would surely follow after being infringed upon.
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