Supreme Court Decision Questions the Validity of Some Computer and Software Patents

While a new Supreme Court decision may cut down the number of valid software patents, experts generally agree that it will not eliminate them altogether. The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that a patent related to a centuries-old financial concept was invalid because it was an abstract idea, even when the concept is implemented through a computer system.

The unanimous 9-0 decision in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International narrows the scope of inventions that can be available for patents and is at least a minor victory for companies that have complained about the use of vague software, computer, a process patents in litigation.

The case involved a patent for escrow services held by Alice Corp., a shell company that many have deemed a "patent troll."

CLS Bank, which runs its own currency transaction network, argued that Alice’s patent described a settlement mechanism that banks have used for centuries. The court agreed with CLS Bank.

"We conclude that the method claims, which merely require generic computer implementation, fail to transform that abstract idea into a patent-eligible invention," wrote Justice Clarence Thomas in the court's decision.

Thomas’s opinion drew heavily on the reasoning from another recent case, called Myriad Genetics, in which the court invalidated patents over human genes. Both opinions concluded that applying familiar techniques to "non-patentable things" does not result in a patentable invention.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor also wrote a one-paragraph concurring opinion, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Stephen Breyer, suggesting that all business methods are invalid to begin with.

You can check out the decision in its entirety here.

Source: GIGA OM

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