A unanimous Supreme Court narrowed the reach of software patents Thursday.
The Court ruled that simply involving a computer in an idea doesn’t mean it’s patentable. The justices tossed out several patents belonging to Alice, an Australian financial services company, and the ruling could invalidate other similar patents.
But the Court didn’t go as far as many patent critics had hoped, declining to strike down all software patents. Critics argue that a rise in litigation (especially over software patents) is suppressing innovation and limiting consumers’ access to technology.
The Supreme Court has long ruled that “abstract” ideas are generally not patentable. Alice’s patents covered a computer system for facilitating financial transactions. CLS Bank challenged the patents, and the high court agreed that a patentable invention must do more than just add a computer to an otherwise abstract idea.
“Merely requiring generic computer implementation fails to transform that abstract idea into a patent-eligible invention,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the Court.
Google, Facebook, Amazon, and other technology giants had urged the Court to issue a broad ruling against software patents. In a brief to the Court, the companies wrote that abstract software patents “have become a plague on computer-related industries.”
Other companies, including Microsoft and Adobe, agreed that the Court should throw out Alice’s patents, but warned against a sweeping blow against all software patents. Those companies said the Court had no reason to “risk the potential uncertainty and unforeseen impacts” by addressing the patentability of all software.
Ultimately, the Court was careful to craft a narrow ruling. Thomas wrote that “many computer-implemented claims are formally addressed to patent-eligible subject matter,” but the Court offered little guidance on what kinds of software patents might still be valid.
The ruling comes after the Senate abandoned legislation to crack down on “patent trolls” — firms that file frivolous patent claims to extort settlements out of companies. Many tech companies argue that patent trolls have become a drain on the economy.
What We're Following See More »
Perhaps Donald Trump can take a plebiscite to solve this whole messy immigration thing. At a Fox News town hall with Sean Hannity last night, Trump essentially admitted he's "stumped," turning to the audience and asking: “Can we go through a process or do you think they have to get out? Tell me, I mean, I don’t know, you tell me.”
Donald Trump "nearly quintupled the monthly rent his presidential campaign pays for its headquarters at Trump Tower to $169,758 in July, when he was raising funds from donors, compared with March, when he was self-funding his campaign." A campaign spokesman "said the increased office space was needed to accommodate an anticipated increase in employees," but the campaign's paid staff has actually dipped by about 25 since March. The campaign has also paid his golf courses and restaurants about $260,000 since mid-May.
Donald Trump probably isn't taking seriously John Oliver's suggestion that he quit the race. But he has canceled or rescheduled rallies amid questions over his stance on immigration. Trump rescheduled a speech on the topic that he was set to give later this week. Plus, he's also nixed planned rallies in Oregon and Las Vegas this month.
Donald Trump's Fox News brain trust keeps growing. After it was revealed that former Fox chief Roger Ailes is informally advising Trump on debate preparation, host Sean Hannity admitted over the weekend that he's also advising Trump on "strategy and messaging." He told the New York Times: “I’m not hiding the fact that I want Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States. I never claimed to be a journalist.”