The Edmond Sun

Opinion

June 23, 2014

Los Angeles Times: A welcome crackdown on patents

LOS ANGELES — The Supreme Court moved again Thursday to rein in patent lawsuits, something it’s been doing with remarkable regularity in recent years. This time, the court invalidated a common type of software-based business method patent because it doesn’t involve any actual invention. The court stopped short of barring patents on any type of business method — which three justices wanted to do — or software program. Nevertheless, the spate of recent patent rulings should help clear a path for more innovation by cracking down on vague and overly broad claims, which have given patent holders too much power to block unrelated inventions and deter investment.

This court has taken up a growing number of important patent law cases as patent litigation has surged, and its rulings on them have usually been unanimous. That alone stands as a loud and unmistakable rebuke to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which approved the patents that the Supreme Court rejected, and the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, whose rulings have misguided patent examiners. But the justices’ repeated interventions are also a not-so-subtle critique of Congress, which has failed to curb the patent “trolls” that accumulate broadly written patents, then threaten alleged infringers with lawsuits unless they pay questionable licensing fees.

The latest case focused on a dispute between Alice Corp., which developed and patented an electronic marketplace for financial derivatives, and CLS Bank, which operates a clearing house for currency trades. Writing for the court, Justice Clarence Thomas held that Alice Corp.’s patents were based on an abstract idea — the long-standing industry practice of completing trades through an intermediary to guard against fraud — that was not itself patentable. The mere fact that Alice Corp. used software and computers to implement the practice didn’t magically transform it into a real invention.

The decision should make it impossible to obtain a patent for automating a basic business concept, which is what too many business method patents do today. More subtly, it also set a higher standard for software patents in general by suggesting that they must improve how computers function, not simply use them in a new way.

As the founders recognized, patents have an important role to play in encouraging people to make risky investments in research and development, and then share their knowledge with the public. But the rewards of the system have been diminished by bad patents and practices that defy the founders’ goals, making innovation risky and encouraging people to keep advancements secret. The court’s ruling in the Alice Corp. case should help reverse some of those practices and allow real innovation to flourish.

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Opinion
  • Sheltons travel for better life for family

    Some time around 1865 a mixed-race African American couple, William and Mary Shelton, made their way from Mississippi to east Texas. Nothing is known for certain of their origins in he Magnolia state, or the circumstances under which they began their new lives in Texas.

    July 29, 2014

  • Film critic Turan produces book

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    July 28, 2014

  • Logan County’s disputed zone

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    July 28, 2014

  • Russell leads in Sun poll

    Polling results of an unscientific poll at www.edmondsun.com show that Steve Russell, GOP candidate for the 5th District congressional seat, is in the lead with 57 percent of the vote ahead of the Aug. 26 runoff election. Thirty readers participated in the online poll.

    July 28, 2014

  • Healthier and Wealthier? Not in Oklahoma

    Increased copays, decreased coverage, diminished health care access, reduced provider budgets and increased frustration are all the outcomes of the Legislature’s 2014 health care funding decisions. Unlike some years in the past when a languishing state economy forced legislators into making cuts, the undesirable outcomes this year could easily have been avoided.

    July 26, 2014

  • Medicaid reform a necessity

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    July 25, 2014

  • Remembering lessons from 1974

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    July 25, 2014

  • RedBlueAmerica: Is parenting being criminalized in America?

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    July 24, 2014

  • Technology that will stimulate journalism’s future is now here

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    July 23, 2014

  • New Orleans features its own “Running of the Bulls”

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    July 22, 2014

Poll

The runoff race for the 5th District congressional seat is set for Aug. 26. If the voting were today, which candidate would you support?

Al McAffrey
Tom Guild
Undecided
     View Results