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EFF Press Release Archives

Press Releases: December 2012

December 19, 2012

New Funds Dedicated to Protecting Innovation and Reforming Software Patents

San Francisco - America's broken patent system needs major reform to protect innovators and the public. Today, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is announcing a major new boost to its patent work: a half-million dollars in funding from entrepreneur Mark Cuban and game developer Markus "Notch" Persson.

"The current state of patents and patent litigation in this country is shameful," said Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks. "Silly patent lawsuits force prices to go up while competition and innovation suffer. That's bad for consumers and bad for business. It's time to fix our broken system, and EFF can help. So that's why part of my donation funds a new title for EFF Staff Attorney Julie Samuels: 'The Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents'."

Cuban's $250,000 donation also funds the hire of a new attorney experienced in patent reform and high profile patent litigation: Daniel Nazer, who will join EFF in January as a Staff Attorney. The rest of EFF's seasoned intellectual property team includes Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry, Senior Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl, and Staff Attorney Mitch Stoltz. The team is also assisted by EFF fellows Michael Barclay and Jason Schultz.

Persson's separate donation of $250,000 cements EFF's ability to tackle the systemic problems with software patents. With a blend of lawyers, technologists, and activists, EFF will push for reform in the courts, through activism campaigns, and by educating the public and politicians about what is wrong with software patents and what needs to change.

"Temporary fixes aren't good enough – we need deep and meaningful reform to protect software development and keep it as free and democratic as possible," said Persson, creator of the popular videogame Minecraft. "New games and other technological tools come from improving on old things and making them better – an iterative process that the current patent environment could shut down entirely. This is a dangerous path we're on, and I'm glad to help EFF move us in the right direction."

EFF's Defend Innovation project is already at the forefront of patent reform. Defend Innovation promotes seven fixes for America's patent system, including shortening the term for software patents, allowing winning parties in litigation to recover fees and costs, and protecting inventors who independently arrive at a patented idea. Defend Innovation joins EFF's other longstanding work in the patent space, such as its Patent Busting Project and its involvement in patent litigation.

"Patent controversies dominated technology news this year, and now more than ever, it's clear that something needs to change," said EFF Executive Director Shari Steele. "We are so honored that these two inventors came to us separately with their contributions and their confidence, and we're excited about fixing software patents."

For EFF's Defend Innovation project:
https://defendinnovation.org/

Contact:

Rebecca Jeschke
   Media Relations Director
   Electronic Frontier Foundation
   press@eff.org

Related Issues:
December 7, 2012

Federal Circuit Revisiting Troubling Ruling That Helps Foster Increased Patent Litigation

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged the full Federal Circuit today to throw out the dangerous patents it previously held valid in CLS Bank v. Alice Corp, arguing that the court's earlier decision goes against the law and helps foster the recent dramatic increase in patent litigation. In the amicus brief filed today, EFF proposes that the court require patent owners to claim what they actually invent and nothing more.

"The Patent Act doesn't protect abstract ideas because it would lead to harmful monopolies on simple ideas, like ways of running a business or cooking a meal," said Staff Attorney Julie Samuels. "Yet we're still routinely seeing patents issued based on abstract ideas, and having those patents upheld in some courts. In an environment like this, it should be no surprise that company after company decides to buy a lottery ticket in the guise of a dubious software patent and see if it can hit the jackpot. The Federal Circuit has a chance to help curb this new rash of patent lawsuits."

The patents in CLS Bank cover a computer system that helps with closing financial transactions by avoiding settlement risk. A lower court found this invention so abstract to be unpatentable. But this spring, the Federal Circuit disagreed on appeal, finding that implementation of the invention on a computer system made it non-abstract. The Federal Circuit finding goes against a Supreme Court ruling that adding conventional steps – like implementing something on a computer – does not alone make an abstract idea patentable.

"Patent lawsuits are very common, straining businesses large and small, and acting as a tax on innovation," said EFF Fellow Michael Barclay. "These lawsuits are fueled by dangerous and contradictory rulings from the Federal Circuit on what constitutes a patentable invention. We're asking the court to implement a sensible system, limiting patent owners to what they actually invented, instead of all-too-common broad and vague claims that make no sense and give no guidance to innovators."

Public Knowledge joined EFF in this amicus brief.

For the full brief in CLS Bank v. Alice Corp:
https://www.eff.org/node/72780

Contacts:

Julie Samuels
   Staff Attorney
   Electronic Frontier Foundation
   julie@eff.org

Michael Barclay
   Fellow
   Electronic Frontier Foundation
   michael@eff.org

Related Issues:
December 6, 2012

Statute Threatened Operation of Online Libraries and Other Services

San Francisco - Today, Washington state officials announced that they have dropped their defense of a law aimed at combatting online sex trafficking ads by targeting Internet service providers, conceding that the statute was unconstitutional and violated federal law. After a challenge by the Internet Archive and Backpage.com, a permanent injunction barring enforcement of the law will officially go into effect when the federal district court approves the stipulations and proposed orders filed today.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and co-counsel Venkat Balasubramani represented the Internet Archive in the federal lawsuit that struck down SB 6251, a law passed by the Washington legislature in 2012 despite its obvious potential to curtail legitimate speech. For example, the vague and overbroad statute threatened to impose felony liability not only on those directly engaged in illegal acts but also on those who "indirectly" caused to be "disseminated" any "implicit" offers for commercial sex acts. That could potentially affect services that merely provide access to information, like web hosts, ISPs, or online libraries, impeding their ability to operate. Moreover, the statute directly conflicted with Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA 230), a federal law that bars states from holding online service providers responsible for the acts of their users.

"Threatening to throw service providers in jail for what their users say or do is misguided, incredibly harmful to online free expression generally, and violates federal law," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "We are grateful that the state of Washington has agreed that this statute cannot and will not be enforced against the Internet Archive or anyone else."

The Internet Archive and Backpage.com first filed separate challenges to SB 6251 in June, seeking to block both the state attorney general and county prosecutors from enforcing the statute. In July, federal district court judge Ricardo Martinez granted a preliminary injunction, agreeing that the statute likely violated the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments as well as conflicted with CDA 230. When approved, today's stipulations and orders will convert the preliminary injunction into a permanent one, rendering the statute unenforceable against anyone.

"The protection offered by CDA 230 has allowed YouTube to host user-uploaded videos, Craigslist to host classified ads, Facebook and Twitter to offer social networking, and the Internet Archive to offer billions of archived webpages documenting the evolution of the Internet," said EFF Staff Attorney Nate Cardozo. "While everyone involved in this case agrees with the goal of SB 6251, overbroad laws that create potential liability for general purpose Internet service providers and forums is not the right way to hold sex traffickers accountable."

For the full settlement order:
https://www.eff.org/node/72784

For more on this case:
https://www.eff.org/cases/internetarchive-v-mckenna

For more on CDA 230:
https://www.eff.org/issues/cda230/

Contacts:

Nate Cardozo
   Staff Attorney
   Electronic Frontier Foundation
   nate@eff.org

Matt Zimmerman
   Senior Staff Attorney
   Electronic Frontier Foundation
   mattz@eff.org

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