Software Patents and the Internet of Things


The “Internet of Things” is a concept that just a few years ago seemed like science fiction, but today seems to be an impending science reality that promises to change the way that we are connected to and use information.

The speedy evolution of the“Internet of Things” (“IoT”) is why the phrase is frequently called a concept, but it really is much more than that. IoT is used to describe the not-too-distant future where ordinary, everyday objects are connected to the Internet. That means that those objects, which can range from wearable devices to washing machines to lamps and coffee makers, will not only be able to relate to the user, but will be able to relate to one another and act in unison.

As with any technology market predicted to rapidly grow, there has been a lot of innovation from a variety of leading technology companies, including IBM, Apple, Google, Samsung, Intel, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and many more. There have also been many exciting innovations from both individuals and start-up companies. Of course, patents can be found whenever there is a technology revolution, and connecting the world through both traditionally high-tech and low-tech devices is absolutely a revolution. But it is a revolution where the technical magic, such as it is, will come in the form of software.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Alice v. CLS Bank, the popular belief has been that the bottom has fallen out of the patent market. The market did certainly slow down in the months immediately following the decision, but according to Tyron Stading, President and Founder of Innography, there were a large number of patents bought and sold during fourth quarter of 2014, which could signal that the market is rebounding.

Further, if you look at recent transactions through Q1 of 2015, there are at least some signs that the patent marketplace is becoming more active. There have been a number of high-profile acquisitions in the pharmaceutical space, and last week Sony acquired OnLive’s patent portfolio. Akamai Technologies, Inc. also recently announced the acquisition of Octoshape, which will give Akamai access to Octoshape technologies that optimize the quality of video streams for over-the-top content and to enable Internet Protocol television solutions. So it seems that the market for patented technologies is not as dead as some may believe.

“Most people are betting that there will be some kind of reversal, maybe not now but perhaps 3 or 4 years down the road, so a patent with 10 years of life could be quite attractive, particularly in an area of innovation like smart homes,” explained Tim Schnurr, who is Chief Operating Officer at ICAP Patent Brokerage. It is this optimistic belief that the pendulum will swing back toward innovators and stronger patent rights that seems to be buoying the market. Of course, the potential for a $7 trillion market within 5 years is also contributing to great interest with technologies and patent portfolios in the IoT space.

So where does this leave software patents? The United States Patent and Trademark Office continues to issue software patents and, for the most part, the patents that are having the most trouble in the courts are those relating to financial services and to processes that simply enable a computation that had been done in the real world previously, such as ledger accounting. If this trend continues, it suggests that the patents that will cover the software technologies that enable the Internet of Things will be fine, particularly if the specification contains a thick technical disclosure that concretely defines an innovative process.

Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

You share in the PLI Practice Center community, so we just ask that you keep things civil. Leave out the personal attacks. Do not use profanity, ethnic or racial slurs, or take shots at anyone's sexual orientation or religion. If you can't be nice, we reserve the right to remove your material and ban users who violate our Terms of Service.

You must be logged in to post a comment.