News Column

Supreme Court Decision in Software Patent Case Doesn't Provide Clear Guidance on What Can be Patented, IEEE-USA Says

June 19, 2014



WASHINGTON, June 19 -- IEEE-USA, a unit of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, issued the following news release:

The Supreme Court could have provided much clearer guidance on what kind of software can be patented in a unanimous decision handed down today, according to IEEE-USA.

Ruling in Alice Corporation Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank International (No. 13-298), the high court ruled in favor of CLS Bank that an Alice Corp. business method for reducing the risk that parties in a transaction will not pay what they owe is not patentable.

Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the court, said, "... that merely requiring generic computer implementation fails to transform that abstract idea into a patent-eligible invention."

IEEE-USA filed an amicus curiae brief in the case last October because of the significant potential negative effect the case could have on the business interests of entities holding nearly one million existing software patents.

"This decision," said Keith Grzelak, co-chair of the IEEE-USA Intellectual Property Committee, "reduces the likelihood of acquiring property interests in ideas that are created on a computer, which will also reduce the flow of capital to such ideas."

Today's ruling doesn't provide clear guidance on how to proceed forward although it did put to rest claims that software is not patentable subject matter: "... There is no dispute that a computer is a tangible system (in section101 terms, a "machine"), or that many computer-implemented claims are formally addressed to patent-eligible subject matter."

"Such statements make it clear that under the right conditions, computer-implemented inventions can be patented," Grzelak said. "Unfortunately, we will need to somehow discern what those conditions might be."

IEEE-USA is also puzzled why the decision did not cite patent law scholarship and or any of the amicus curiae briefs filed by private parties.

Adam Mossoff, Grzelak's fellow IPC co-chair, said the ruling would have been better had it provided "inventors and commercial firms working in the innovation industries the ability to know with certainty if their discoveries or inventions are patentable or not.

"The one ray of hope in this decision is that innovative software inventions in the high-tech industry are now definitively deemed patentable, contrary to the claims of many patent skeptics."

Alice Corporation Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank International ruling: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/13pdf/13-298_7lh8.pdf

IEEE-USA amicus curiae brief: http://ieeeusa.org/volunteers/committees/ipc/documents/AlicevCLSOct2013.pdf

TNS 24HariCha-140620-30FurigayJane-4773597 30FurigayJane


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