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Supreme Court rules software patents need to be more than general ideas
Patents protect intellectual property, giving rightful inventors the ability to keep their ingenious ideas safe. Problems rise when malicious individuals turn such tool into a weapon, relentlessly targeting innocent companies. Such has been the case for technology and software patents.
“Patent trolls” have been abusing the system and taking ownership over generic software processes, suing companies for the silliest patents. An especially surprising case is when a patent troll was demanding royalties for paying online with a credit card, as silly as that sounds.
Today we have a reason to celebrate, as the Supreme Court is making some changes to our amazingly flawed patent system. The Court has deemed generic patents to be invalid in a case with Alice Corp. and CLS Bank. More specifically, they believe patents of abstract or well-known ideas are invalid when simply “applied to a computer”.
Institutions have been trying to patent actions that are generally used and applied in the financial industry, the only difference is that these patents simply specified a software application of the classic techniques.
Alice Corp attempted to defend its patent filing by saying there were specific processes that had to be taken, but this didn’t sway the Supreme Court. They simply stated a similar case in different words, stating these patents “simply recite the concept of intermediated settlement as performed by a generic computer. They do not, for example, purport to improve the functioning of the computer itself or effect an improvement in any other technology or technical field.”
At the end of the day, this case could be used as a base for future patent cases. Innovation and unique ideas are key in patent filing. A valid patent should have concrete technical steps and a unique design, not simply be a collection of well-known processes.
The patent troll war continues, with consumers, companies and some of the biggest personalities in the industry asking for changes. We have a long way to go before seeing the patent system mature and catch up with technology’s evolution, but this is a great step towards a brighter future. One in which innovators can focus on creating, not fighting.