The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reign in overbroad patents and "clean up the mess that is software patent law" in an amicus filed last Thursday. The EFF's amicus brief was related to a case the court is set to hear: the long-running Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank. The case is over a patented computer system that helps close financial transaction by avoiding settlement risk. A lower court ruled that the invention was so abstract that it was unpatentable, but a Federal Circuit panel held that implementing the system on a computer made it extraordinary enough for a patent.
In its brief the EFF said that the Federal Circuit began "this obsession over utility patents" in 1994 when it "concocted the notion of broad software patents" in In re Alappat. By 1997, the software patent market had exploded. While the software patent market has grown, so too has the number of lawsuits related to software patents.
"Much of this litigation involves patent cases brought by nonpracticing entities, also known as patent assertion entities, patent monetizers, or colloquially, 'patent trolls' which have significantly increased in recent years," the brief states.
The EFF went on to say that these "patent trolls" primarily target small startups, where legal expenses can bankrupt a company and that "the mere threat of those expenses can chill innovation," according to the group.
"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," EFF senior staff attorney Julie Samuels said in a statement. "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."
Source: Courthouse News