Alice v. CLS Bank – A Sea Change for Software

Since the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in Alice v. CLS Bank, I have been arguing that the decision would have far reaching implications for software patents. Initially, many were skeptical, and surprisingly many still are, even with the Patent Office issuing Alice rejections like they are candy at Halloween, with the Federal Circuit invalidating software claims in case after case citing Alice, and with the PTAB likewise finding software patent claims of all types invalid. There is no doubt that things are different and a great many issued software patents and pending software applications will be worthless. Sure, moving forward, we have ideas about what needs to be in the disclosure, but you cannot add new matter to an application or issued patent, and software patents are now all about the technical disclosure.

Against this backdrop of disbelief and denial, I spoke with Professor Mark Lemley on August 28, 2014. Lemley shares my view, for the most part. I published our entire interview on IPWatchdog.com, The Ramifications of Alice: A Conversation with Mark Lemley. What follows are some of the highlights of our conversation.

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Paying Ransom to Patent Trolls Is a Mistake

I have absolutely no problem with enforcing patent rights, and frankly I don’t think it should matter how the patents were acquired, but there is something exceptionally seedy about the use of shell companies going after competitors, or large tech companies selling to known patent trolls. They complain about the troll problem in the halls of Congress on the one hand, but use them to their advantage on the other hand.

The question should be whether there is infringement of a solid patent. If there is a solid patent and there is infringement, then there should be recourse, period. Having said that, it would be naive to pretend that there is not real evil lurking in the patent infringement realm. Stories of $500 to $1,000 offers to settle and avoid patent infringement litigation that would cost millions of dollars to defend abound. False and misleading demand letters prey on unsophisticated businesses.

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Software, Open Source and Programmers

On August 12, 2014, I spoke with computer expert Bob Zeidman (pictured left) on the record for an in-depth interview that published on IPWatchdog.com. The interview lasted approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes and was over 11,000 words in length. I think it was an excellent and intriguing discussion about the reality of software, both from a coding and market perspective. We also spoke at length about the Supreme Court’s decisions in Alice v. CLS Bank, Bilski v. Kappos, and Diamond v. Diehr. We also discussed what type of disclosure might be enough to satisfy both the Patent Office and the Supreme Court, which is increasingly becoming the arbiter of all things patent-eligible.

While a lengthy conversation like this would be of interest to those who work in the area, there were a number of intriguing points raised during our interview that I hope all patent practitioners would be interested in. For that reason, I offer here highlights of the interview. For the complete interview, please see A Conversation about Software and Patents.

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09.17.14 | Patent Issues, software patents | Gene Quinn

The Future Software Patent Application

In the wake of the Supreme Court decision in Alice v. CLS Bank, many in the patent community are starting to realize just how different things will be moving forward. Initially, some convinced themselves that nothing had really changed substantively, which was bolstered by the initial USPTO guidance. But quickly that bubble burst as the Patent Office started issuing supplemental office actions and even withdrawing notices of allowance, all to issue Alice rejections. So what will a software patent application look like that has allowable claims? That is a very good question.

U.S. Patent No. 8,515,829 (“the ’829 patent”) may provide some answers. It is a patent issued to Google, which is titled Tax-free giftingSee Google Patents Tax-Free Gifting. Generally speaking, the invention relates to a system and related techniques for gifting, and paying for, digital content, including media, such as audio and video. The core of the invention, as suggested by the title, relates to giving someone something tax-free. The invention relates to a method that allows for the giver of the gift to pay for the tax imposed by the jurisdiction where the gift (i.e., gift card) is redeemed.

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Making Post Grant Extremely Expensive for Challengers

The America Invents Act (AIA) created three new ways to challenge the validity of claims in already-issued patents. The AIA was signed into law on September 16, 2011, but the new post grant proceedings did not become available until one year after the signing, on September 16, 2012. These three new post grant proceedings are post-grant review, inter partes review, and covered business method review (the latter a variety of post-grant review that is limited to business methods relating to the financial industry).

Inter partes review has been extraordinarily popular due to the fact that the rules are stacked in favor of the challenger. Indeed, recently, Scott McKeown (a partner at Oblon Spivak and co-chair of the Oblon post grant practice group) wrote on his blog that the Patent Trial and Appeals Board (PTAB) “offers unprecedented speed with none of the patentee safeguards of the district court.” The biggest safeguard that a patentee enjoys at the district court is a presumption of validity. The presumption of validity does not attach in a post grant administrative proceeding. That’s a significant benefit to the challenger.

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