San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) along with Professor Pamela Samuelson of the University of California, Berkeley, urged the U.S. Supreme Court today to clean up the legal mess that is software patent law, reining in overbroad patents that are impermissibly abstract.
In front of the court is Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank, a long running case about a computer system that helps with closing financial transactions by avoiding settlement risk. In its amicus brief filed today, EFF argues that allowing a patent on this system goes against previous Supreme Court rulings that ideas like these are "abstract" and aren't legally patentable.
"It wouldn't make sense to patent simple ideas like ways of running a business or prioritizing a to-do list," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Julie Samuels, who also holds the Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents. "That's basically what's under consideration here, with the small addition of a step that essentially implements it on a computer. Of course, since basically everything we do today is on the computer, letting patents like this exist shuts down entire business models."
The data on the U.S. technology industry bear this out. Since software patents have boomed, we've seen no corresponding boom in software growth and innovation; to the contrary, that growth maintained the steady pace that existed long before the advent of software patents. Instead, along with software patents, we've seen the rise of patent trolls – companies that don't make or sell anything, but shake down true creators through the loopholes in the law.
"In this case, the Supreme Court has the opportunity to implement a sensible system, limiting these broad and vague claims that do nothing besides fuel lawsuits," said Samuels. "A clear ruling here would limit one of the patent troll's favorite weapons—broad and vague software patents—and keep our innovation economy safe."
For the full amicus brief:
For more on abstract software patents:
Staff Attorney and The Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents
Electronic Frontier Foundation