US Supreme Court To Decide Future of Software Patents

It is a proven fact that vague software patents are far more likely to be involved in litigation, particularly with patent assertion entities, than other types of patent and drain companies of millions of dollars either out of court settlements or legal fees. Troll-related litigation is taxing on the U.S. economy (costing $29 B in 2011 alone) further reiterating that “pure” software can’t be patented and if it does, it would cost nation billions of dollars in litigation. As such, US House of Representatives introduced and much recently passed the Innovations Act.

And the most recent is that US Supreme Court has taken up the issue of software patent eligibility. In a recent announcement, the court announced that it will take on a case that will examine the validity of software patents. The court will hear Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank case. In May 2013, US federal court was deadlocked on this case and then only the fate of this case was decided. It went to the Supreme Court which will now attempt to answer the question of whether so-called software patent that claims a “computer system programmed to implement a financial transaction,” is valid or not.

Till now, both the legislation and US Courts have never ever directly addressed the status eligibility of software for patent protection per se. Despite of this, United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has always granted patents whose description included the steps involved in the execution of software tied to a specific machine or physical process. Most of them have been vague so much so that their claims are incomprehensible and we have raised this point in our blog article “Why Software Patents Are Troubling Silicon Valley Businesses?” In the article, we have rightly pointed out that how messed up is the present situation and why it is important that a strict regime is enforced in the future to deal with software patents in a real and meaningful way. Thus, it will be very interesting to see whether the Supreme Court issues another narrow opinion (like federal courts) that is focused on the particular claims at issue, or a broader opinion that provides meaningful guidance for future patent applicants.

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