Slash Boxes

SoylentNews is people

posted by janrinok on Tuesday April 01 2014, @10:00AM   Printer-friendly
from the troll-lol-lo-lio dept.

Blackmoore writes:

Joe Mullin at Ars Technica writes that the US Supreme Court is keen to get a legal grip on patent trolling. "The Supreme Court's decision in this case - or indecision - matters. The court is aware of patent trolls, and it seems to genuinely dislike them. The justices also seem aware that Bilski did not do the job, and they want to devise some legal means of executing patents they don't like. The question then becomes "how?"

In theory, the Court could go so far as to simply say software is not patentable. That's a very unlikely outcome, but it can't be ruled out entirely. The tiny possibility of such an outcome has spurred companies that favor software patents - including Microsoft, Adobe, and IBM - to file briefs focused on their importance. (While these companies extol software patents as a general category, no one defends Alice's patents.)

Internet companies, meanwhile, are trying to steer the court's attention to the harm caused by vague software patents. A pointed, 12-page brief filed by LinkedIn, Twitter, Yelp, Newegg, Netflix, Rackspace, and several smaller software companies does not go so far as to call for the abolition of patents on software, but it makes the signors' (sic) distaste for them crystal clear. "Innovation happens despite software patents, not because of them," states that brief, written by Stanford professor and patent litigator Mark Lemley.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.
Display Options Threshold/Breakthrough Mark All as Read Mark All as Unread
The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.
  • (Score: 2, Funny) by isaac on Tuesday April 01 2014, @11:23AM

    by isaac (500) on Tuesday April 01 2014, @11:23AM (#24025)

    April Fools! The Supreme Court actually loves patent trolls. Dead money and litigious, non-practicing entities are like, the beating heart of modern American capitalism. Free markets, yo.


    • (Score: 2) by MrGuy on Tuesday April 01 2014, @12:03PM

      by MrGuy (1007) on Tuesday April 01 2014, @12:03PM (#24054)

      Meh. You can make plenty of points about the system being tilted in favor of corporations, and you won't be wrong.

      But here, corporations are the ones up against other corporations, and quite a lot of big corporations have been feeling at least as much pain as they've been inflicting from patents. And patent trolls are small fish compared to their prey, in dollars and influence terms. Capitalism is no longer clearly on the side of patent nuclear war, which is a welcome change.

      • (Score: 2) by Blackmoore on Tuesday April 01 2014, @04:10PM

        by Blackmoore (57) on Tuesday April 01 2014, @04:10PM (#24276) Journal

        Any decision that is going to limit patent trolls will in some way effect those other patent holders. but it may at least have some means to end the nauseating litigation in these cases

        • (Score: 2) by davester666 on Tuesday April 01 2014, @05:30PM

          by davester666 (155) on Tuesday April 01 2014, @05:30PM (#24344)

          That's just it. None of this is new. There have been these patent battles going on for, well, since just after the patent system was enacted. In every industry.

          The only 'new' part is that it is reported more.

          • (Score: 2) by MrGuy on Tuesday April 01 2014, @05:58PM

            by MrGuy (1007) on Tuesday April 01 2014, @05:58PM (#24366)

            With respect, software patents are markedly different than most industry patents (author's note: I'm talking US patent law for this post, since that's the only country I feel confident enough to talk about).

            In (for example) manufacturing, you patent a specific implementation. You can't patent the idea of making steel out of iron. You can patent a specific process for turning iron into steel. If someone has a different methodology for obtaining the same result, they're not afoul of your patent. If the sue you, you can simply trot out your differently shaped machine and prove it's independent.

            Software, not so much. There are "methods and concept" patents that exist in the wild (Amazon's "Click to purchase" being an infamous example). More problematically, you can patent what's EFFECTIVELY an idea. For example, there's a patent covering a "method for in-app purchases" whose claims are so broad and non-specific that they cover almost any feasible implementation of in-app purchases.

            Part of this is simply that there are some bad patents issued by the patent office, but a large part of it is that the definition of "what is patentable" for software is ill-defined, both in the law and in precedent.

            An idea isn't patentable. A "law of nature" isn't patentable. Only a working implementation is patentable. So, is an algorithm patentable? To some degree, it's just an idea, expressed in mathematical language. An algorithm isn't an implementation. So an algorithm by itself isn't patentable. But now take the algorithm and run it on a computer. Is it patentable now? It's still just an idea - a WAY of doing things. It's just running on a computer. Currently, that's enough to make it patentable. And, more problematically, other implementations of the same conceptual algorithm are not permitted (even using different source code), because the patent is on "this algorithm" and not "this source file."

            It gets really challenging really quickly, but when the IDEA of in-app purchases, syndicating content in an RSS-like manner, having scrolling content appear to "bounce" when you reach the bottom, etc. can be effectively patented, no matter what source code you use to implement it, you're in a very different place than most other industries.

      • (Score: 1) by urza9814 on Tuesday April 01 2014, @05:50PM

        by urza9814 (3954) on Tuesday April 01 2014, @05:50PM (#24357) Journal
        Meh...sure, the patent trolling hurts the massive corporations a little...but it also provides a fantastic tool they can use to push the new guys out of the market. Just look at the companies filing the briefs here. Mostly older, more established companies arguing in favor of patents with the smaller net start-ups arguing against. Nice to have the likes of Netflix and Twitter on our side for now, but they won't be there for long.
    • (Score: 1) by dboz87 on Tuesday April 01 2014, @04:17PM

      by dboz87 (1285) on Tuesday April 01 2014, @04:17PM (#24280)

      Okay, I got a good laugh out of that one.

  • (Score: 2) by elf on Tuesday April 01 2014, @12:17PM

    by elf (64) on Tuesday April 01 2014, @12:17PM (#24062)

    enough said. Lets hope they go all the way.

  • (Score: 1) by Hawkwind on Tuesday April 01 2014, @06:58PM

    by Hawkwind (3531) on Tuesday April 01 2014, @06:58PM (#24407)
    The Guardian [] is indicating the Supremes will likely pass on the opportunity to do anything too grand, based on statements made by the Justices.
    The article also has some observations about three other cases:
    • ...the justices turned away an early look at a challenge by religiously affiliated not-for-profit groups to the new health care law's provision on birth control coverage.
    • The court refused to overturn Arizona court rulings ordering the Yuma County sheriff to return marijuana that was seized from a woman with a California medical marijuana authorization honored by Arizona.
    • The Supreme Court turned away an appeal by the state of Alaska in a long-running fight over the control of rivers and the fishing and hunting rights of Alaska Natives.

    I suspect the last item is related to a gold mining proposal in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska.