Prominent Pro-Patent Judge Issues Opinion Declaring All Software Patents Bad
from the and-over-an-intellectual-ventures-lawsuit dept
Well here’s an unexpected surprise. A lawsuit brought by the world’s largest patent troll, Intellectual Ventures, and handled on appeal (as are all patent cases), by the notoriously awful Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) may have actually killed off software patents. Really. Notably, the Supreme Court deserves a big assist here, for a series of rulings on patent-eligible subject matter, culminating in the Alice ruling. At the time, we noted that you could read the ruling to kill off software patents, even as the Supreme Court insisted that it did not. In short, the Supreme Court said that any patent that “does no more than require a generic computer to perform generic computer functions” is not patent eligible. But then it insisted that there was plenty of software that this wouldn’t apply to. But it’s actually pretty difficult to think of any examples — which is why we were pretty sure at the time that Alice should represent the end for software patents, but
bemoaned the Supreme Court not directly saying so, noting it would lead to lots of litigation. Still, the impact has been pretty widespread, with the Alice ruling being used both by the courts and the US Patent Office to reject lots and lots of software and business method patent claims.
But this latest ruling, from the very court that upended things nearly two decades ago in declaring software much more broadly patentable than anyone believed, may now be the nail in the coffin on software patents in the US. The headline, of course, is that the patents that Intellectual Ventures used against anti-virus firms Symantec and Trend Micro, were bunk, because they did not cover patent eligible subject matter. But the part that has everyone chattering is the concurring opinion by Judge Haldane Mayer, that says it’s time to face facts: Alice killed software patents. And Mayer is not some newcomer. He’s been at the Federal Circuit since the 1980s and was actually the chief judge in the late 90s/early 2000s when CAFC was at its worst in terms of expanding patent law. And it appears he’s been born again into the anti-software patent world. It’s… quite a conversion.
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