Software Will Remain Patent Eligible

Gene QuinnSoftware is now and will remain patentable in the United States. Software patents have been vilified by many, but they have been granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office and upheld in federal courts across the United States.

The Patent Act specifically envisions that some software must be patent eligible. For example, the America Invents Act (AIA) prohibits tax strategies from being patent eligible, but specifically says that this tax strategy prohibition does not apply to software that embodies a particular strategy. Furthermore, also as a part of the AIA, Congress created covered business method review as a new form of post grant procedure to challenge at least some issued software patents. Had Congress believed that software were not patent eligible, neither provision would have been enacted as part of the AIA; instead Congress would have merely statutorily prohibited software patents. Given that they statutorily prohibited tax strategy patents, it seems that Congress well understands how to wield that power when they want. Thus, software is patent eligible.


Apple Patents Digital Handshake Between Devices

On April 23, 2013, Apple obtained U.S. Patent No. 8429407, titled Digital Handshake between Devices.

Creating a secure connection between two devices that are in close physical proximity allows users to share a great deal of digital content. Instead of showing a webpage or document to another person by turning the screen towards them, a user could choose to send the info directly to another device, preventing people from having to crowd around a small device screen to see. The same is true of videos and pictures. Also, some applications allow users to interact with other nearby devices for money transfers or to play a game.

Apple was granted the right to protect the system of creating a secured connection between devices laid out in this patent. It would allow an iPhone to create a bar code or alphanumerical code that can be scanned by the camera of another device. Once the “digital handshake” has taken place, other phones can also scan the key that was generated by the device to connect with the other devices as well.

As Claim 1 describes, Apple has gained legal protections over:

“A method for establishing a communications path between a first device and a second device, comprising: capturing an image of the second device using the first device; extracting, from the image, a first key associated with the second device; selecting from a plurality of processes a process to be used for generating a digital handshake key; generating the digital handshake key using the selected process with the first key; and establishing a communications path with the second device using the digital handshake key.” (more…)

Unanimous SCOTUS Sides with Monsanto on Seeds

logo[2]On Monday, May 13, 2013, the United States Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, ruled that a farmer who buys Monsanto’s patented seeds cannot then propagate new seeds for future use without infringing the underlying patent.

The opening paragraph in the Court’s decision, which was delivered by Justice Kagan, succinctly captures the essence of the ruling. Justice Kagan wrote:

Under the doctrine of patent exhaustion, the authorized sale of a patented article gives the purchaser, or any subsequent owner, a right to use or resell that article. Such a sale, however, does not allow the purchaser to make new copies of the patented invention. The question in this case is whether a farmer who buys patented seeds may reproduce them through planting and harvesting without the patent holder’s permission. We hold that he may not.

Monsanto invented a genetic modification that enables soybean plants to survive exposure to glyphosate, the active ingredient in many herbicides (including Monsanto’s own Roundup). Monsanto markets soybean seed containing this altered genetic material as “Roundup Ready” seed. Farmers planting that seed can use a glyphosate-based herbicide to kill weeds without damaging their crops. Two patents issued to Monsanto cover various aspects of its Roundup Ready technology, including a seed incorporating the genetic alteration.

Federal Circuit Makes Mess of Software Patents

Gene QuinnIn what can only fairly be characterized as a patent tragedy, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit now has no official position on the patentability of system claims that objectively recite volumes of tangible structures that clearly satisfy the machine-or-transformation test. Less than 5 years after giving the industry the rigid machine-or-transformation test, which was ultimately struck down by the Supreme Court, five of the ten judges that heard CLS Bank v. Alice Corporation en banc would find that claims that seem to clearly satisfy the machine-or-transformation test are not patent eligible.

The per curiam decision of the Federal Circuit was very brief. It simply stated:

Upon consideration en banc, a majority of the court affirms the district court’s holding that the asserted method and computer-readable media claims are not directed to eligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101. An equally divided court affirms the district court’s holding that the asserted system claims are not directed to eligible subject matter under that statute.


A Conversation about Software Patents

Eric Gould Bear, user interface patent infringement litigation expert witnessOn March 25, 2013, I spoke on the record with Eric Gould Bear (left) about software innovations, software patents and the trials and tribulations of litigating software patents long after they were first written.

Bear is an inventor on over 100 patents and patent applications in the software space. He has spent over 25 years working with numerous Fortune 500 corporations with respect to assisting them in the creation of new user experiences. He is also a founder of the design studio MONKEYmedia, which recently launched a patent infringement lawsuit against Apple, and which also has a patent infringement lawsuit pending against Sony, Disney and others. Bear is also a testifying software expert witness.

During our one-hour discussion, which published in three parts on, we discussed a number of interesting topics. What appears below are some of the highlights of our discussion.