updated 01:55 am EST, Tue December 11, 2012
Zynga, Intuit, Rackspace, Redhat, Dell join in signing filing
In an amicus curae ("friend of the court") brief filed on Friday by Google, Facebook, and six other tech companies, the unlikely allies have asked the courts to reject all lawsuits based on patents with unclear concepts instead of specific information and applications. Cosigned by, Dell, Homeaway, Intuit, Rackspace, Redhat, and Zynga, the brief implies that there is a great risk to the technology industry if such lawsuits are allowed to continue.
The eight companies are writing to the Federal Circuit regarding CLS Bank versus Alice Corp. Alice Corporation holds patents for a vague concept on financial intermediation implemented with a computer, and CLS claimed that the patent was too vague to enforce. Essentially, Alice's system is conducted in a "mock" simulation, and then if the transaction seems like it will process, then the real transaction is posted to the appropriate exchange institutions. The patent addresses using a data storage array, but does not specify the particular implementation needed to establish the mock financial transaction system. CLS implemented a similar solution, and was sued by Alice Corporation. Initially, the courts ruled that the patent was valid, and could be used to sue CLS for patent infringement.
The parties believe that "such patents merely divide an abstract idea into its component parts, the real work comes later, when others undertake the innovative task of developing concrete applications." Additionally, looking inward somewhat, the companies state that "the abstractness of computer-related patents bears much of the blame for the extraordinarily high litigation and settlement costs associated with such patents."
"It is easy to think of abstract ideas about what a computer or website should do, but the difficult, valuable, and often groundbreaking part of online innovation comes next: designing, analyzing, building, and deploying the interface, software, and hardware to implement that idea in a way that is useful in daily life. Simply put, ideas are much easier to come by than working implementations," concludes the amicus brief.
All of the companies signing the brief have recently been involved in patent lawsuits of some form, so the amicus brief may not be entirely benevolent. Google faces near-constant assault both from and by its Motorola Mobility division. Zynga is staring down a patent suit by Electronic Arts, so clearly, the signatories have much to lose if the suits continue. The letter follows the first step in the negation of the "Steve Jobs patent" covering much of the iPhone "look and feel" by the US Patent Office last week.
[TechCrunch] Google - Facebook Amicus Brief Criticizing Patents On Abstract Ideas