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US Supreme Court Invalidates Patent For Being Software Patent

timothy posted about 4 months ago | from the arts-and-science-vs-arts-and-sausages dept.

The Courts 220

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) writes The US Supreme Court has just invalidated a patent for being a software patent! To no fanfare, the Court has spent the past months reviewing a case, Alice v. CLS Bank, which posed the question of "Whether claims to computer-implemented inventions ... are directed to patent-eligible subject matter." Their ruling was just published, and what we can say already is that the court was unanimous in finding this particular software patent invalid, saying: "the method claims, which merely require generic computer implementation, fail to transform that abstract idea into a patent-eligible invention," and go on to conclude that because "petitioner's system and media claims add nothing of substance to the underlying abstract idea, we hold that they too are patent ineligible." The End Software Patents wiki has a page for commenting the key extracts and listing third-party analyses. Analysis will appear there as the day(s) goes on. Careful reading is needed to get an idea of what is clearly invalidated (file formats?), and what areas are left for future rulings. If you can help, well, it's a wiki. Software Freedom Law Center's website will also be worth checking in the near future.

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Oh please please please (5, Insightful)

gumbright (574609) | about 4 months ago | (#47272759)

Please let this lead somewhere good.

Re:Oh please please please (2, Funny)

gumbright (574609) | about 4 months ago | (#47272773)

And did I get first post? How the hell did that happen if i did?

Re:Oh please please please (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47272821)

You were the first to post dumbass!

Re:Oh please please please (4, Funny)

johnnys (592333) | about 4 months ago | (#47272823)

I think everyone else was paralyzed with the shock of seeing such "blinding common sense" come from a government institution. You were the first person to recover from the shock, so you get first post.

Re:Oh please please please (4, Funny)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 4 months ago | (#47272971)

The SCOTUS also ruled that citizens have a right to challenge an IRS summons.

If that headline makes its way to Slashdot, this sudden outburst of common sense may cause the majority of the community to become catatonic.

Re:Oh please please please (4, Informative)

dcw3 (649211) | about 4 months ago | (#47273121)

You got it backwards...

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday ruled taxpayers aren't automatically entitled to court hearings to question the motives behind a summons issued by the Internal Revenue Service. The decision was a win for the government, which argued a lower-court ruling made it too easy for taxpayers to obtain court hearings to examine IRS motivations for seeking detailed taxpayer information.

Re:Oh please please please (4, Informative)

msauve (701917) | about 4 months ago | (#47273471)

It's not so simple either way, it's more nuanced. They provided a clarification of the rules to be applied:

In an extremely brief and unanimous opinion by Justice Elena Kagan, the Court held that a taxpayer who wants to question Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents about their motives for issuing a summons may do so if he can point to "specific facts or circumstances plausibly raising an inference of bad faith."
...
it "will ensure inquiry where the facts and circumstances make inquiry appropriate, without turning every summons dispute into a fishing expedition for official wrongdoing."

- Scotusblog.com [scotusblog.com]

Re:Oh please please please (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47273703)

This is Slashdot.

We don't do nuance.

Re:Oh please please please (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 4 months ago | (#47273723)

The nicest thing about the legal system of the US is that incorporates more nuance each step of the way.

Representatives pass a popular, mostly well intentioned bill, with loads of simplifications.(oh but also lobbyist interests)
The executive enforces that with experts who try to apply that stricture in a way that seems reasonable for the pragmatic situation.(Oh but also lobbyist interests)
The courts then examine iffy situations and issue precedence on places where that goes too far as well.(oh, but also lobbyist interests).

It's a good design.(oh, except for lobbyist interests)

Re:Oh please please please (4, Interesting)

pepty (1976012) | about 4 months ago | (#47273561)

SCOTUS has been limiting intellectual property rights for several years now. Prometheus (also unanimous), Myriad, and now Alice. It seems like one thing they can all get behind.

Re:Oh please please please (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | about 4 months ago | (#47273657)

Alice? the AIML thingy?

Re:Oh please please please (1)

pepty (1976012) | about 4 months ago | (#47273835)

Alice vs CLS Bank.

Re:Oh please please please (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | about 4 months ago | (#47273563)

I think everyone else was paralyzed with the shock of seeing such "blinding common sense" come from a government institution.

I think the rest of us were wondering when in the everliving hell we can start seeing some of this trickle down to the rest of the tech world... the sooner, the better.

Re:Oh please please please (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | about 4 months ago | (#47273641)

The one thing that stands out is that software is a Copywrite issue. A machine that already has the mechanics built into it is patenable by its inventor. It makes no sense that a 3rd party can step in and claim a new squence of switching is pattenable. Why? Because the squence ALREADY EXISTED, and N-Factorial other squences exist also.

Re:Oh please please please (2)

Atzanteol (99067) | about 4 months ago | (#47273953)

That's an awful argument. By that definition nothing can ever be copyrighted (which may be your point). Music is, after all, just a unique set of sounds the instruments could already make - the already existed.

Re:Oh please please please (1)

Atzanteol (99067) | about 4 months ago | (#47274087)

NVM - I misread things (and confused copyright with patent).

Re:Oh please please please (1)

Qzukk (229616) | about 4 months ago | (#47274123)

I think you fundamentally misunderstood his statement, thought the random throwaway statement at the beginning about software being covered by copyright didn't help.

He talked about how someone could build a machine with mechanisms (triggered by switches) built into it and patent that machine. But once that machine was invented, nobody else should be able to come along and patent using the machine with a certain set of switches on or off, because the switches and their options were already included in the original invention.

Re:Oh please please please (3, Insightful)

msauve (701917) | about 4 months ago | (#47272861)

If you figure it out, patent it!

Re:Oh please please please (4, Insightful)

Tx (96709) | about 4 months ago | (#47272871)

I wonder if this ought to invalidate crap like the infamous Amazon one-click patent. After all it was also just a generic software implementation of a long-established system, namely storing someone's payment and address details for use with future purchases.

Re:Oh please please please (4, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 4 months ago | (#47273511)

Nope. That was on the Internet. That is completely different.

Re:Oh please please please (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | about 4 months ago | (#47273679)

How so? It was a method that already existed.

Re:Oh please please please (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 4 months ago | (#47273811)

Sorry. Slashdot ate my sarcasm tag. Unicode. If only.

Re:Oh please please please (4, Funny)

Rob Riggs (6418) | about 4 months ago | (#47273971)

Nope. That was on the Internet. That is completely different.

How about "on a smartphone"? Surely I'm the first person to ever think of that.

Or "on a plane", "in a car", "just like that, but yellow", "at the beach", "indoors", "during a snowstorm", or "while watching Pigs in Space"?

Re:Oh please please please (4, Funny)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 4 months ago | (#47274063)

I do not like green eggs and ham!

Re:Oh please please please (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | about 4 months ago | (#47273575)

I worry that the stupid FAT32 patent will still be around (since it deals with how a HDD is formatted), but maybe, just maybe other crap (long filenames, anyone?) can finally just frickin' die.

Re:Oh please please please (3, Insightful)

mysidia (191772) | about 4 months ago | (#47274051)

I worry that the stupid FAT32 patent will still be around (since it deals with how a HDD is formatted),

The fact that you can format a RAMDISK or an image file as FAT32; shows that the FAT filesystem actually an abstraction and claims about the abstract mathematical datastructures and parameters of the FAT filesystem really have nothing to do directly with the way the disk (or 'block' device) is formatted.

Re:Oh please please please (3, Interesting)

Solandri (704621) | about 4 months ago | (#47273715)

I wonder if this ought to invalidate crap like the infamous Amazon one-click patent.

Unfortunately, you have to (1) be sued by Amazon for violating the patent (else you have no standing to challenge it), and (2) pay the expense of multi-year court battles with practically no hope of recouping your costs even if you win.

OTOH, I actually like the one-click patent even though I think it's a stupid and invalid patent. It prevents other online stores from putting in a button which can cause you to instantly buy something if you accidentally click it (this has happened to me on Amazon).

Re:Oh please please please (1)

EvilSS (557649) | about 4 months ago | (#47273745)

Please let this lead somewhere good.

I think it will. Reading it, it seems to at the very least (IANAL so I have no idea how far it goes) it will nuke all of the "...with a computer!!" bullshit patents. I hope it goes much farther than that, but even if it doesn't it's a win.

Re:Oh please please please (1)

dkman (863999) | about 4 months ago | (#47274009)

... on a computer
... on the internet
... on a mobile device
... in a car (is that coming, or should that just be considered a mobile device [if not a bad pun])
... with a brainwave scanner, or did i get ahead of myself?

WTF (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47272767)

the court was unanimous

How did that happen?

Re:WTF (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47273001)

This is probably a patent that goes against lawyers. I can only imagine that.

Re:WTF (5, Informative)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 4 months ago | (#47273135)

the court was unanimous

How did that happen?

Most Supreme Court decisions are unanimous. In the last term, 52% of decisions were 9-0. Another 12% were 8-1.

Re:WTF (1)

OakDragon (885217) | about 4 months ago | (#47273663)

I'm done with mod points for a bit, but someone please give this guy an Informative. Unanimous (or nearly so) decisions rarely involve the most controversial decisions that make the news.

Yay (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47272771)

First. We did it.

Re:Yay (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47272793)

What's that noise? Yes, it's the FAILicopter taking off again.

Yesssssss! (1)

JWW (79176) | about 4 months ago | (#47272781)

About damn time!

I'm really missing Groklaw (5, Insightful)

DrJimbo (594231) | about 4 months ago | (#47272817)

We need someone who is familiar with the law to explain this to us techies. PJ we need you!

Re:I'm really missing Groklaw (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47272969)

One thing it does do is make slide to unlock liable to be shot down. The ruling is that abstract ideas are not patentable which slide to unlock should definitely fall within for example...

Re:I'm really missing Groklaw (1)

pepty (1976012) | about 4 months ago | (#47273375)

But slide to unlock is a physical implementation. Whether or not slide to unlock patents should be invalidated for other reasons they're not strictly software patents, i.e., something that works with a "generic computer implementation".

Re:I'm really missing Groklaw (2)

rjstanford (69735) | about 4 months ago | (#47273587)

The two things that can make slide to unlock physical are the rough specifics of the action (size of slider, size of track, visual/tactile feedback, etc) or the specific code approach used to implement it. In each completely separate case the process patented would have to be novel. The notion of a specifically designed sliding motion to unlock the phone probably was novel - the research that went into coming up with a method that was natural and yet almost impossible to happen unintentionally was not insignificant. The idea of taking a generic action because of a sliding your finger in any way over a phone is not patentable. Using a substantially different sliding method to unlock a phone would not violate Apple's patent either.

Think about simple physical patents for a second. You can't patent the idea of a bladed fan, even the idea of using one to cool a computer. You can patent a specific complex design (xx blades with different thicknesses and pitches) that produces a specific response (less noise, less space, more cooling), but in doing so the patent also has to be specific enough for someone to reproduce your invention once the patent has expired.

Re:I'm really missing Groklaw (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | about 4 months ago | (#47273753)

Why is that no other web site copies FaceBook's look, methods, and processing?

Re:I'm really missing Groklaw (4, Informative)

msauve (701917) | about 4 months ago | (#47273027)

You know the oft-made complaints about issuing patents for "idea, but on a computer?" This is from the ruling:

Stating an abstract idea while adding the words "apply it with a computer" simply combines those two steps, with the same deficient result.

Seems that the Supremes unanimously agree with those complaints.

Re:I'm really missing Groklaw (1)

sumdumass (711423) | about 4 months ago | (#47273397)

I guess common sense is common again or was for a short period of time.

You've got ESP (5, Informative)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | about 4 months ago | (#47273045)

Sorry, all you've got is me.

If anyone can help, I've been building this wiki for five years now without a break:

http://en.swpat.org/ [swpat.org]

(And I'm working on campaigns against software patents since 2003.)

Re:I'm really missing Groklaw (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47273079)

mod parent up

Re:I'm really missing Groklaw (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47273113)

Here you go [ipwatchdog.com]

Re:I'm really missing Groklaw (1)

DrJimbo (594231) | about 4 months ago | (#47273327)

Here you go [ipwatchdog.com]

Gene Quinn? Yes, an excellent reminder of how much we need PJ to cut through the BS for us. Thank you.

Re:I'm really missing Groklaw (1)

DrJimbo (594231) | about 4 months ago | (#47273481)

For example, in the fine article [ipwatchdog.com] you linked to, Gene Quinn says:

Software can be described by reference to a series of physical actions operating through gates. This type of micro level description of what happens is going to be required, [...]

This is BS. Software that can run on different architectures cannot be described in terms of the physical hardware the software runs on. At best the patent that resulted would only be valid on the specific hardware that was described. I grant you, Microsoft (IIRC) did argue this nonsense successfully in a courtroom once but just because they were able to buffalo some lawyers and judges, that doesn't make it true.

Re:I'm really missing Groklaw (1)

pepty (1976012) | about 4 months ago | (#47273607)

Quinn has been firmly against all of the limitations on patents that have come from SCOTUS over the past few years; his blog is a further way for him to advocate for his clients.

Re:I'm really missing Groklaw (5, Informative)

Warhawke (1312723) | about 4 months ago | (#47273661)

This ruling extends the basic rule of Bilski that you can't patent an idea to the computer. Essentially, Alice Corp. states that you can't patent a general idea simply by appending the term "on a computer." What the case doesn't say is that all software patents are invalidated. Rather, the software has to be more than just a generic business idea expressed "on a computer."

Alice Corp. was the assignee of several patents for mitigating "settlement risk" via software. Software claims in patent law usually occur in two parts: a method of performing the claimed function and a system for performing the prior claimed method. This basically lets a patent holder guard against people manipulating their way around the system or method claims to perform the exact same function, such as by using a remote server instead of a local hard drive, or querying before step A as opposed to after step A. Alice Corp. had both a system and method patent for mitigating settlement risk. Specifically, the claim contemplated two parties using a third-party intermediary, in this case a computer, to create account ledgers (or "shadow accounts," as the patent called them) based on the accounts of both primary parties, determining available versus unavailable funds, calculating a risk for a given set of transactions, and then issuing instructions to the parties telling them what transactions are permitted and what transactions are too risky to engage in.

The patent itself was to "facilitate the exchange of financial obligations between two parties by using a computer system as a third-party intermediary." If this sounds like an abstract business method, that's because it is. Alice Corp.'s patent was basically a claim to mitigating settlement risk by employing a third party on a computer. The intermediary was just the computer in this case. The district court found that the patent was too vague, because it really only contemplated an idea. The Federal Court on first hearing reversed, saying that it wasn't "manifestly evident" that the patent ideas were abstract, so the case should be litigated rather than dismissed on summary judgment. On second hearing en banc (i.e. with all the Federal Circuit judges present, the Federal Circuit changed its position and determined that the method claims were invalid. There was some internal dispute, however, as to whether the system claims -- i.e. a claim over a computer that performs the function -- was valid.

The Supreme Court determined, in an opinion written by Justice Thomas, that both the method and system claims were abstract and therefore invalid. The rule under a cased called Mayo Collaborative Services v. Promethius Labs requires that an abstract idea, to be patentable, must have some practically beneficial application to either the computer system implementing it or to some other kind of technology. For example, it might be common knowledge that plucking a guitar string emanates a harmonic frequency, so I can't patent plucking a guitar string, but if I find a new, beneficial use for plucking a guitar string, such as a patent on plucking guitar strings to encourage the growth and development of plants (yes, it's nonsensical -- I can't invent good, patentable things on the spot!), then I could patent that. Here, though, the court asked "whether the claims at issue here do more than simply instruct the practitioner to implement the abstract idea of intermediated settlement in a generic computer." Laconically, the Court concluded, "They do not."

So what does this mean for software patents? Well they still are valid as more than just math. Though the Court didn't address the issue directly, it has been generally held that software is sufficiently transformative to warrant patentability. While not a favorite opinion here on Slashdot, that's not altogether nonsensical; if software is sufficiently artistic enough to be copyrightable, then it stands to reason that it has been sufficiently transformed from some natural state to warrant patentability as well. That said, algorithms are not patentable. A software claim that only protects against doing specific math, as opposed to being comprised of math, is not valid and will be (and has been) invalidated. What's the difference? You have to take your tech beanies off and look at it from the perspective of very intelligent, but non-technical 60+ year-olds.

What this case does do is extend Bilski to the software world. You couldn't patent an idea. Now it's articulated that you can't patent an idea on a computer. So finally, all of those irate claims we've made about "that's just a patent for doing X on a computer!" has some valid case law supporting it.

Law school graduate, not a lawyer (yet), who works in a patent law firm. This isn't legal advice. Blah, blah.

Re:I'm really missing Groklaw (4, Informative)

harperska (1376103) | about 4 months ago | (#47273845)

IANAL, but I am a software developer. One additional piece of the puzzle is that Thomas was very careful to use the term 'generic computer'. I.E. the system claims are invalid because the computer implementation at each step of the process does not need anything more than industry standard hardware, common APIs and algorithms/processes common and well known to the industry. Because the computer portion itself could be considered generic, it didn't make the unpatentable idea into a patentable process. That decision left the door open for software patents that require either specialized hardware, or truly novel algorithms not generally known to the industry to implement an otherwise unpatentable idea.

Holy hell (4, Funny)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 4 months ago | (#47272827)

There's no way this happened on purpose, something must be wrong.

Shock and Awe (5, Insightful)

Carcass666 (539381) | about 4 months ago | (#47272839)

A unanimous decision, authored by the most conservative voice on the court (Thomas) with a concurring opinion by one of the most liberal (Sotomayor). If this were the beginning of April, I would say this story was a prank. Yeah, it doesn't completely kill software patents, but it does seem to mortally wound the "business process + software = patent troll profit" problem that is plaguing software development. This is a good day for the judicial branch. It's a good day for the USA.

Re:Shock and Awe (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47273029)

Thomas authored something?

Re:Shock and Awe (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47273083)

He regularly writes opinions. He just doesn't ask questions in oral arguments. Much the same as how I lurk and read others comments on Slashdot without asking questions myself, but there is still (often) interesting discussion here.

Re:Shock and Awe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47273195)

I was gonna ask... and I also miss Groklaw.

I'm wondering how the PTO takes these sort of rulings, and more specifically, the patent examiners themselves. I mean, they have to be aware of these court cases and the ramifications that will come down the line if we start to see more turnover from the Judicial. Is it possible for a patent examiner to be booted out of the PTO because they authorized too many patents that the courts found inelligible? One would think.

Either way, I hope this is a turning point of things.

Re:Shock and Awe (1)

pepty (1976012) | about 4 months ago | (#47273509)

A few months after SCOTUS or congress shakes things up the USPTO sends out new guidelines to the affected patent examiners. This recently happened for patents involving genes and natural products after last years decision against Myriad (BRCA1 gene patents): examiners were instructed to kick a lot of claims that previously would have been allowed.

I don't think you can blame the examiners for following the guidelines that were in place at the time.

PJ (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47272857)

Wish you were here.

Huh? (4, Informative)

bunratty (545641) | about 4 months ago | (#47272869)

It looks to me like the patent was invalidated because you can't patent an abstract idea. You can't patent the abstract idea of a vehicle with four wheels that uses an internal combustion engine to transport people and cargo. But you can patent the invention of a specific type of automobile, provided that you provide a concrete implementation of that idea by integrating building blocks into a new invention.

Held : Because the claims are drawn to a patent-ineligible abstract idea, they are not patent eligible under 101. Pp. 5–17. (a) The Court has long held that 101, which defines the subject matter eligible for patent protecti on, contains an implicit exception for ‘ “[l]aws of nature, natural phen omena, and abstract ideas.’ ” As - sociation for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc. , 569 U. S. ___, ___. In applying the 101 except ion, this Court must distinguish patents that claim the “ ‘buildin[g ] block[s]’ ” of human ingenuity, which are ineligible for patent prot ection, from thos e that integrate the building blocks into something more, see Mayo Collaborative Ser - vices v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc. , 566 U. S. ___, ___, thereby “transform[ing]” them into a patent-eligible invention, id., at ___. Pp. 5–6."

Re:Huh? (1)

tomhath (637240) | about 4 months ago | (#47273057)

I read it differently. It seems to say that, for example, you can't patent the concept of a bookstore, nor can you patent the concept of a bookstore implemented as a computer program.

Re:Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47273349)

It seems to say that, for example, you can't patent the concept of a bookstore, nor can you patent the concept of a bookstore implemented as a computer program.

I dissent from your opinion: if you can't get a valid patent for an abstract idea of a bookstore, you can't get a patent for an online version of the same abstract bookstore.

Re:Huh? (1)

praxis (19962) | about 4 months ago | (#47273497)

Your dissent seems rather consenting.

Re:Huh? (2)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | about 4 months ago | (#47273133)

It was invalidated because the process it describes is super super old. They only thing they added to the old process was using a computer. So if you invent something actually new. Then you can patent that. But "old idea + computer" is not patentable.

Yes, but for the wrong reason (3, Interesting)

Theaetetus (590071) | about 4 months ago | (#47273331)

It was invalidated because the process it describes is super super old. They only thing they added to the old process was using a computer. So if you invent something actually new. Then you can patent that. But "old idea + computer" is not patentable.

If something's not new, it's invalid under 35 USC 102. If something is obvious, it's invalid under 35 USC 103. Both of these would apply to "old process + computer", and the patent should have been invalidated on those grounds...

But, you have to prove that it's an old idea with some evidence in the form of prior art. And because SCOTUS can't do their own prior art searches, even though they knew it was an old idea, they couldn't invalidate it under 102 or 103... So, instead, they turned to 35 USC 101, and said that this was not a patent eligible method because it was directed to an "abstract idea"... But what's an abstract idea? According to Thomas, anything super super old, like you said. But that's what the other statutes are for.

It's the right outcome - the patent was clearly invalid - but for the wrong reason.

Re:Yes, but for the wrong reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47274205)

you have to prove that it's an old idea with some evidence in the form of prior art.

Prior art requires an exact claim-for-claim match. If someone is claiming "old idea+computer" you have to find that someone has done "old idea+computer" and published it at least a year before the priority date of the patent in order to claim that the patient is invalid in this ground. Showing that everyone did "old idea" before computers is not sufficient for prior art/novelty.

Meaning in plain text (1)

bswarm (2540294) | about 4 months ago | (#47272887)

So, this means computer generated things can't be patented? IE: Skynet won't be able to patent the terminator.

Goodbye 1Click (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47272937)

The ruling is clear, just implementing an idea, like 1click payment, is not good enough for a patent. The implementation needs to add substance to the idea. For example, a video codec based upon a new approach requires more than a generic implementation (i.e. can be done by anyone) and can be patented. A 1Click payment system, however, requires little more than a generic implementation to function and not subject to patents.

So, that leaves something like 1-Click subject to patent claims as a "business method", but according to the above ruling, there is an argument that it lacks sufficient substance as a method to be patentable.

Thus, someone needs to attack "business method" patents and obtain a similar ruling.

Re:Goodbye 1Click (2)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 4 months ago | (#47273125)

The old-school problem with software patents was patenting everything "on a computer". A known eigenvector transform to separate out sinusoid frequencies from a set of sample points would be written and patented "on a computer", because nobody had ever done it in software before.

People started calling method patents "software patents" at some point. That is to say: people would come up with a brilliant new way to analyze and encode data (i.e. compression, psychoacoustics), and folks would start screaming that it shouldn't be patented.

Hardware patents are really the same way: a system of gears, levers, and cams placed in a certain order create a pair of timed shuttles that can weave fabric at high speeds. Software just feeds a similar list of steps (mathematical transformations) into a computer and does something. Hardware patents are mechanical algorithms; software patents are computational algorithms. Hardware patents take substance in (thread, electrons, steel) and produce an organized substance output (cloth, signal, gears); software patents take data in and produce an organized information output.

There's nothing wrong with software patents. Our problem is patenting shit that everyone knew about for the past 500 years, or retard shit that doesn't mean anything but can be manipulated in court to apply to anything.

Re:Goodbye 1Click (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47273239)

There's nothing wrong with software patents.

Except for the fact that software is made out of idealized abstract mathematics. Parts don't cost anything, they don't rust, wear out, or break, and if algorithms are patentable, a single programmer can trivially and innocently infringe hundreds or thousands of patents in a single program.

Re:Goodbye 1Click (1)

tepples (727027) | about 4 months ago | (#47273243)

So as I understand what you wrote: Method patents where the method itself is novel are fine, but "on a computer" is not an inventive step if the way to translate an otherwise non-novel method to a computer is obvious to one skilled in the art. Am I right?

Re:Goodbye 1Click (4, Insightful)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 4 months ago | (#47273493)

Yes.

Similarly, assembling a wooden crate "with a nail gun" is not an inventive step over "the same way for thousands of years, but with a hammer."

Re:Goodbye 1Click (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about 4 months ago | (#47273683)

Damn-it of all the time to not have mod points. Parent needs some +1 insightfuls.

Re:Goodbye 1Click (1)

rjstanford (69735) | about 4 months ago | (#47273611)

Software just feeds a similar list of steps (mathematical transformations) into a computer and does something.

That'd be just fine IMO. Most software patents show vague pictures of the inputs and outputs of those transformations, and then claim to have patented the transformations themselves. Its as if the cotton gin patent simply showed cotton growing in fields, then t-shirts, and had a large box in between them that was patented under "a method for transforming cotton from its natural state," which was then used to attack the loom.

Re:Goodbye 1Click (2)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 4 months ago | (#47273729)

That would actually be fine, if nobody had ever thought to turn fiber into clothing. Once the broad "fiber becomes clothing" patents wear out, you have to look for ways people have made thread before. "PLANT fiber becomes clothing." "Novel way to process Flax and Hemp fiber into clothing by hybrid chemical wash and bacterial fermentation." "New method and device for spinning fibers into clothing." "New method and device for separating high-quality fibers from weak, short fibers to produce better thread." "Novel method for removing seeds from harvested cotton fibers." "Enhancing the yield of cotton, flax, and cannabis fibers through novel growing methods."

Re:Goodbye 1Click (1)

Ken_g6 (775014) | about 4 months ago | (#47273249)

So, that leaves something like 1-Click subject to patent claims as a "business method", but according to the above ruling, there is an argument that it lacks sufficient substance as a method to be patentable.

Thus, someone needs to attack "business method" patents and obtain a similar ruling.

Well, that's the question, isn't it? I don't think this completely invalidates "business method" patents.

This is an extension of the argument that "$process on a computer" is not patentable separately from $process. A previous ruling said that if $process was already patented, "$process on a computer" did not constitute a new patent. This ruling says that if $process is not defined specifically enough to be patented, then "$process on a computer" does not add enough specifics to make the whole process patentable.

So, I think that leaves something like 1-Click subject to patent claims as a "business method", because it is sufficiently specific: The business identifies you, stores your payment info and address, and both charges you and ships stuff to you with one action. To invalidate it would require a similar process in use before the patent, whether or not it used a computer.

Re:Goodbye 1Click (2)

sumdumass (711423) | about 4 months ago | (#47273761)

You mean similar like the store charge accounts before everything became a chain? People would go in, pick what they wanted, a clerk would write it down, then the items would be pulled, charged to your account, and delivered to your door by some highschool kid looking for extra money- often by the end of the day.

The concept of one click is not new. Its just a return of yesteryear to todays stores.

PJ, are you reading this? (1)

wjcofkc (964165) | about 4 months ago | (#47273087)

I am willing to bet PJ passively reads Slashdot. If this is so and you read this, we need you back now please. Now more than ever is the clarity of your legal analysis needed. I admit that I am being completely selfish in asking.

Re:PJ, are you reading this? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47273211)

I am willing to bet PJ passively reads Slashdot.

Then you are a fool. He, She, or It was an IBM employee. The project closed and the person behind the "PJ" name has moved on and working on something else.

timothy, you're a dumbass (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47273161)

this isn't a software patent, it's a "business method" patent. the latter is what was just dealt with by the SCOTUS.

here's the claim that was representative before the court:

A method of exchanging obligations as between parties, each party
holding a credit record and a debit record with an exchange institution,
the credit records and debit records for exchange of predetermined
obligations, the method comprising the steps of:
(a) creating a shadow credit record and a shadow debit record for
each stakeholder party to be held independently by a supervisory
institution from the exchange institutions;
(b) obtaining from each exchange institution a start-of-day balance
for each shadow credit record and shadow debit record;
(c) for every transaction resulting in an exchange obligation, the
supervisory institution adjusting each respective party’s shadow credit
record or shadow debit record, allowing only these transactions that do
not result in the value of the shadow debit record being less than the
value of the shadow credit record at any time, each said adjustment
taking place in chronological order, and
(d) at the end-of-day, the supervisory institution instructing on[e] of
the exchange institutions to exchange credits or debits to the credit
record and debit record of the respective parties in accordance with the
adjustments of the said permitted transactions, the credits and debits
being irrevocable, time invariant obligations placed on the exchange
institutions.

you see any software or computer in that claim, you dumb motherfucker?

Re:timothy, you're a dumbass (1)

gnupun (752725) | about 4 months ago | (#47273411)

The claims are implemented in software, so it's related to software patents.

Re:timothy, you're a dumbass (1)

TemporalBeing (803363) | about 4 months ago | (#47273463)

FYI -- they discuss the issue of "applying it on a computer" quite a bit throughout the entire opinion, so for all intents and purposes they are discussing a software patent. IANAL; however, previously discussing this with several friends that are, they viewed it as a software patent case too.

IAAL (2)

PDG (100516) | about 4 months ago | (#47273163)

While not an expert in this particular case, the holding seems pretty clear - you can't patent an abstract idea and the mere implementation of one does not violate an non-patentable solution. The analysis points out that there is not unique thought or design process involved to protect and the mere following of steps previous outlined does not make something patentable.

The Ultimate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47273197)

Wait'll they patent being born...

No, no, no. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47273201)

Thomas didn't invalidate the patent "for being a software patent." He invalidated it because it was just an abstract idea that was going to be implemented on a computer. This is key - if a patent involves the union of an abstract idea and a computer and the union is novel, etc., it will be upheld. This is NOT, repeat NOT, giving courts permission to start invalidating software patents just because they are software patents. That idea is based on a total misunderstanding of the opinion.

One button safe? (1)

NMBob (772954) | about 4 months ago | (#47273251)

So you mean it might be safe to poke one button on a coke machine and purchase a Coke again without worrying about Amazon's lawyers showing up behind you? Whoa!

Patents, from a developers perspective (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47273269)

If I can use an existing software language to implement your 'patented' idea, then you shouldn't be able to patent that idea. Otherwise, you are restricting my right of freedom of speech (code is copywrite-able). Just like Stephen King can not prevent someone from writing a book about a car that gains sentience and starts killing people, you should not be allowed to prevent me from writing software that does whatever it is you have obtained a patent for. You do have copy write on your code and I shouldn't be allowed to steal your code.

The prior art is the software language, the compiler and the general purpose computer.

Re:Patents, from a developers perspective (1)

rjstanford (69735) | about 4 months ago | (#47273645)

Honestly, I'm no fan of software patents, but that's as silly as claiming that if you weren't advancing the art of blacksmithing that you couldn't patent a complex and novel piece of machinery made out of iron.

Conventionl activities (2)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | about 4 months ago | (#47273287)

Using a computerto create and maintain “shadow” accounts amounts to electronic recordkeeping—one of the most basic functionsof a computer. See, e.g., Benson, 409 U. S., at 65 (noting that a computer “operates . . . upon both new and previously stored data”). The same is true with respect to the use of a computer to obtain data, adjust account balances,and issue automated instructions; all of these computer functions are “well-understood, routine, conventional activit[ies]” previously known to the industry. Mayo, 566 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 4). In short, each step does nomore than require a generic computer to perform generic computer functions.

I think the above is one of the most important parts of the ruling. Basically stating that your patents stores data, or calculates something won't make it patent elligible if it wasn't patent elligible to start with. You could extend similer thinking to internet patents when talking about "well-understood, routine, convention activiteis"

Great quotes... (2)

TemporalBeing (803363) | about 4 months ago | (#47273425)

Great quote on pg 16 of the SCOTUS Opinion:

Given the ubiquity of computers, see 717 F. 3d, at 1286 (Lourie, J., concurring), wholly generic computer imple - mentation is not generally the so rt of “additional featur[e]” that provides any “practical a ssurance that the process is more than a drafting effort designed to monopolize the [abstract idea] itself.” Mayo , 566 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 8–9).

What's the impact on Arithmetic Coding? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47273441)

I mean, the stupid Arithmetic Coding patent is what killed bzip and replaced it with the less compact bzip2 using Huffman coding.

What about FAT royalties?

Please, stop posting sensationalist headlines (3, Interesting)

hydrofix (1253498) | about 4 months ago | (#47273469)

At least according to Ars [arstechnica.com] this is much less. It's just about killing specific kind of SW patents. Crucially, it still allows patents that "improve the functioning of the computer itself".

Re:Please, stop posting sensationalist headlines (1)

Bacon Bits (926911) | about 4 months ago | (#47274199)

So, what, all Windows patents are invalidated?

Summary of decision (5, Informative)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 4 months ago | (#47273507)

A summary of the decision:

1. [We have long held that] Laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas are “the basic tools of scientific and technological work.” and are not patentable.

2. Restricting such an idea and applying it in a particular domain also is not patentable, long established.

3. This is an abstract idea -- and a well-known one in your industry at that.

4. Applying it "on a computer" is trying to patent it in a restricted domain, and thus not patentable.

5. quo novus ordo et tu Brute seclorum GT 9-0 FO

summary does not match the quotes (1)

sribe (304414) | about 4 months ago | (#47273613)

The quotes sure make it seem like the patent was invalidated for being one of those patents which is nothing more than a wish list of features, with no specific information as to an actual implementation. In other words, a marketing description masquerading as an invention.

I've long thought that so many patents of the past 20 years were like this, especially software patents, and that invalidating these would be a great first step, even if we don't manage to get rid of software patents. So, although it seems like the patent was NOT invalidated for being a software patent, it is still cause for great celebration, because it establishes a precedent for invalidating the worst kinds of software patents--and those awful, non-specific, overbroad crap patents are far more of a problem than clear patents on specific techniques.

I've often used this analogy: under the current patent regime, instead of RSA getting a patent on their particular public/private key crypto implementation, the first person (I forget who that was) to think up the concept of using a "trap door" function to create a public/private key system would have patented that idea, without having to bother with actually providing an implementation, and would have essentially owned (for 20 years) all the implementations which later researches, including RSA, did the hard work of actually inventing. So while you may think the RSA patent was a bad idea, it was nowhere near as bad as things got later, and frankly I could live with the RSA kind of software patent.

Florian Mueller's take (1)

david.emery (127135) | about 4 months ago | (#47273805)

http://www.fosspatents.com/201... [fosspatents.com]

Make sure you read his biography to get a sense of where he's coming from in this debate.

Re:Florian Mueller's take (1)

rahvin112 (446269) | about 4 months ago | (#47274065)

Does he include in his biography that he's a paid shill?

No one should read anything he says.

Re:Florian Mueller's take (1)

david.emery (127135) | about 4 months ago | (#47274143)

As long as you understand where he's coming from, and that he's been paid as a lawyer to advocate in the past for clients, his stuff is worth reading. His arguments may be biased towards a specific perspective, but they are well-reasoned and documented in support of his position. That's a lot better than the normal bovine effluent you read from tech reporters or (other...) paid shills.

Even PJ would pick-and-choose references to support a position, that's what "making an argument" is all about.

That being said, Mueller's recent writings on Apple abandoned a lot of the balance they had in years past. I don't know if he lost patience with Apple's positions on the Samsung trials, or if his change was motivated by something less transparent.

What is an "abstract idea" (2)

Steve1952 (651150) | about 4 months ago | (#47273837)

The Supreme Court has held that "abstract ideas" can't be patented, but then has deliberately refrained from defining what an "abstract idea" is!

In the latest Alice decision, they write: "In any event, we need not labor to delimit the precisecontours of the “abstract ideas” category in this case. It is enough to recognize that there is no meaningful distinction between the concept of risk hedging in Bilski and the concept of intermediated settlement at issue here. Both are squarely within the realm of “abstract ideas” as we have used that term."

So you can't have "X", where "X" is undefined.

In other news... (3, Interesting)

dnaumov (453672) | about 4 months ago | (#47273999)

... Supreme Court has upheld the patentability of software concepts, while setting limits: Companies can't patent a mere abstract idea on a computer, but can patent software ideas that advance or improve upon existing ideas.

http://recode.net/2014/06/19/s... [recode.net]

So this is how you void software patents (1)

Hategrin (3579025) | about 4 months ago | (#47274151)

File your infringement claims against the banks and wall-street. If it was CLS Bank Vs. Alice you fucking know right well it wouldn't have turned out the same.
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