Tech Companies Appeal to Reject Patents on Abstract Ideas

Eight high-profile tech companies, which included Google and Facebook, have filed an amicus brief on Friday, asking the courts to reject lawsuits based on patents for “vague concepts” instead of specific applications. According to them, such litigation racks up costs and slow down innovation.

The United Sates Patent and Trademark Office is swamped with patents based on abstract ideas that can be made “on a computer” or “over the Internet,” most of whom are owned by so-called “patent trolls.” These are companies who do not develop their own products and applications based on such patents, and instead sue other companies who happen to infringe on their patents. Such “I-sue-you” culture in the tech world is what the likes of Google, Facebook, Zynga, Dell, Intuit, Homeaway, Rackspace, and Red Hat, wanted to stop.

The amicus curiae brief allows parties outside of a case voluntarily provide information to help a court make a decision. In this case, it is the CLS vs. Alice. The CLS claims that Alice’s patents for “financial intermediation implemented with a computer” should not be considered valid. However, the courts initially ruled in favor of Alice, making its patents eligible and can be used to counter-sue CLS for infringement.

The amici companies claim that there is grave danger to the tech industry if such lawsuits are allowed. The highlight of their argument is that:

“Many computer-related patent claims just describe an abstract idea at a high level of generality and say to perform it on a computer or over the Internet. Such barebones claims grant exclusive rights over the abstract idea itself, with no limit on how the idea is implemented. Granting patent protection for such claims would impair, not promote, innovation by conferring exclusive rights on those who have not meaningfully innovated, and thereby penalizing those that do later innovate by blocking or taxing their applications of the abstract idea‚ĶThe abstractness of computer-related patents bears much of the blame for the extraordinarily high litigation and settlement costs associated with such patents. It is, therefore, imperative that courts enforce Section 101’s “screening” function (Mayo, 132 S. Ct. at 1303) early in most cases, to save defendants and the courts from the unnecessary expense of fully litigating or settling cases- like this one that should be dismissed at the outset.”

The eight companies remind the court that it has previously used four guideposts to determine whether a patent has sufficient inventiveness, and note that Alice’s patents fail on all points.

The amici companies claim that “abstract patents are a plague in the high tech sector” and that a “disturbing amount of patents” would have failed in the guideposts they provided.

Interestingly, the likes of Apple, Intel, and Samsung, are not part of the appeal.

Source: United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, via TechCrunch

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