updated 02:49 pm EST, Fri December 6, 2013
Companies call for clarity from the court
The US Supreme Court has decided to hear a patent-infringement case that calls into question the validity of patent protection for certain software features. In the legal battle fought between Alice Corporation and CLS Bank International, in which the former alleges violation of a software patent related to financial transactions, lower courts have failed to reach a consensus regarding the technology's patent eligibility.
Some companies have argued that the US Patent and Trademark Office has been too loose in granting patents for software innovations that are viewed as abstract concepts rather than specific innovations. Critics argue that such patents are consequently asserted frequently by patent "trolls" in an attempt to extort settlement fees from companies fearful of an expensive, uncertain defense in court.
As noted by SCOTUSblog, lower courts initially nullified Alice Corporation's patent before the Federal Circuit appeals court reversed the decision. The reversal was later reviewed and flipped once again, however the appeals court failed to reach a majority opinion when attempting to clarify standards for interpreting software patents.
In an amicus curae brief filed with the appeals court late last year, tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Dell joined forces to encourage courts to dismiss infringement lawsuits for conceptual software patents that lack specific information regarding implementation methods.
The Supreme Court is expected to begin formal proceedings sometime in the spring.