EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

11.10.09

Bilski Hearing Starts Well for Abolishers of Software Patents

Posted in Courtroom, Law, Patents at 3:59 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Bill ski

Summary: Early reports suggest that judges are hostile towards abstract patents like Bilski’s

Bilski can end software patents, as we last noted yesterday. In fact, Biz Journals has just published an article with an ambitious headline:

Supreme Court may invalidate software patents

Acquiring, using and defending software patents has become big business — sometimes playing a vital role in a company’s success — but that could all change if the Supreme Court decides software can no longer be patented.

The first word from the Bilski hearing can be found in SCOTUS Blog.

It took less than two minutes Monday for the high-stakes patent case in the Supreme Court to descend to the level of questioning whether “Lorenzo Jones” could get a patent on one of his hare-brained inventions, if Bernard Bilski and Rand Warsaw could get one on their theory about managing business risk. “Jones,” an old-time radio figure who thought his creations in a garage would bring him fame and fortune, made an appearance in the first question, by Justice Antonin Scalia.

The Legal Times argues that “Justices overall seemed hostile to a broad view of patent eligibility that would include intangible business processes.” To quote more broadly:

The long-awaited Supreme Court patent law showdown in Bilski v. Kappos is over, and it not looking good for business method patents — or at least the one at issue in the case. Justices overall seemed hostile to a broad view of patent eligibility that would include intangible business processes.

A big fan of software patents was actually there, and he independently indicates that the SCOTUS disliked the Bilski patent. This is good. There were also many people in there. To quote: “Now as I was ushered into the courtroom with other members of the press I was surprised to see that myself, and about ten others, were given limited view seating, sitting behind Romanesque columns adorned with velvet maroon drapes with gold braided strands touching the floor.

“US Supreme Court openly takes the piss out of Bilski’s lawyer,” asserts our reader David Gerard, who read some of the above. Here is the transcript [PDF] and another analysis of the Bilski v. Kappos hearing, courtesy of Patently-O. Thanks to Geza Giedke for the links.

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

2 Comments

  1. David Gerard said,

    November 10, 2009 at 4:52 am

    Gravatar

    In fairness, subjecting an arguing lawyer to that sort of thing is standard in the Supreme Court. They are, after all, there to beat the crap out of your arguments. If you don’t leave feeling like they’re going to have you hanged for the sake of it, they’re arguably not doing their job.

    We’ll see if they subject the defendants to similar.

  2. Jose_X said,

    November 10, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Gravatar

    Just posted here http://www.patentlyo.com/patent/2009/11/supreme-court-hears-bilski-v-kappos.html . [There were interesting comments there.]

    *******
    Part of the problem is that we are ignoring “to promote the progress of science and useful arts.”

    When trying to answer this question, you have to take context into account, context that includes things like who are the parties being affected negatively and what are the costs involved to the players (and by extension, to society).

    Software enables a much larger group of players to participate than is the case in many other types of fields of engineering/science/manufacturing, and all but one of which who would be affected very negatively by patent monopoly grants. The cost structure for software is very different. The essence of software is very different: you can’t clone physical objects, modify them, and redistribute them at costs of zero time and money.

    Why is this context important? Because in some cases, the gains from monopolies might help to promote the progress — if the costs of the monopolies are in practice not that large; however, when many’s hands are bound, every second that thus passes is a loss. Few have access to steel manufacturing plants independent of patents, for example. Conversely, many have access to software. The worlds best software can be created tomorrow in 10 garages around the world in cooperation through the Internet. And almost surely, they will have to reuse many many ideas from others, ideas that perhaps they derived themselves but which likely could have been the subject of patents within the last few years.

    There are motivations for creating software beyond to make a buck. While true for most items, software can be distributed and consumed at virtually zero marginal cost. This is a characteristic of a “product” unheard of in the past (and enabled by the Internet). If this applied to cogs, we’d find many people creating great new cogs for new uses and giving them away (building a business in some other way.. or as charity) because this would cost nothing except their time. Of course, in practice this is not possible and patents on cogs do get in the way. Yes, software is different. It’s literature and math no matter how many computers it helps drive. Patenting software stifles and hurts many that would otherwise contribute much to society.

    If there are a few special cases deemed worthy, then the government can give prizes or other forms of incentives that don’t curtail the rights of others. Unlike with free public electromagnetic spectrum or with water or land, the use of software can be done virtually by anyone to any degree without negatively impacting anyone else. And where this isn’t the case, exceptions can be made on a case by case basis (eg, yelling “fire” in a crowded location).

    Also, we are ignoring things like the ridiculous broad scope of patents or the fact that with many more inventors participating, even impressive inventions get rediscovered fairly routinely.

    In fact, the patent system (broad scope == more power) rewards those that know the details less well over those that take the time to learn more details. The initial hare to hop along to the USPTO gets dominance over the careful tortoise. And the dominance is very very significant and is over many many unforeseen future inventions over many many years.

    Those not patenting, and there are real costs in time and money to patent, especially if you want it for defensive purposes, are getting a very very short end of the stick against those with patents. A broad patent lets you stop the world. A much more brilliant prior art (without patent) means next to zilch as you aren’t even guaranteed to be able to develop your invention further if patent holders come and get in your way. So they leveraged your brilliance and extra time and effort for $0 and virtually no restrictions while their mediocrity and rush catapults them into monopolies over your progress and over the progress of many other inventors and their unforeseen inventions.

    Getting back to context, the Internet allows collaboration that did not exist before. Patents before made a little more sense. Today, the costs (from monopolies) to impede the otherwise gains from the Internet are that much greater than in the past. Progress is not promoted as frequently as it might have in the past (no matter the invention).

    Today’s patent rules encourage individuals to optimize being first no matter if 1000 similar inventions would occur that year. Even unobvious inventions can get reinvented in spades over the course of a single year, much less over 20 years. And because of the broad scope, that patented vague idea can stop many amazing inventions that would otherwise follow, inventions related only because someone was able to use English to express in concise form the commonalities among that potentially very broad class of inventions. The general terms require much less knowledge than the intricate details. In short, today’s rules encourage patent writers to look at what others are doing (easier to do today because so much gets created and posted on the Internet) and then generalize and beat them all to the USPTO to gain their supermonopolies.

    Finally, I do believe that much new hardware should not be patentable is there is no new technology at play (if there is, then that aspect can get a patent). Merely the expression in hardware (as in software) of ideas without leveraging any new physical transformation is but a rewriting of the same physical storyline. Many people daily add creative actions to their jobs. Should they all get patents (as many of the justices pointed out)? Merely moving circuits around into a new configuration is a new use of an existing technology: the configuration is novel (as is math and literature and many things in life that many people create every minute) but the machine has no novel transformations, etc.. However, we may still allow a limited form of monopoly in the cases of material goods in order to help offset manufacturing costs. Then again, there is first to market and trade secret protections (and copyright protections) already at play. These are motivation to in fact innovate and create new products (even if we only look at monetary motivations). This inventor/manufacturer did not have to invest in new technology but merely produced a new flavor using existing technology.

    Note that software (and eg hardware designed through verilog using existing models and technological processes) works off a fixed abstract machine. There is however some unavoidable degree of engineering around imperfections when new processes are developed. This latter does support that some degree of monopoly protection might help. Otherwise, it’s a trivial step to convert the ideal software creation into a product or into a use. There are no surprises and extra engineering needed when we attach the physical machine.

    Summary: don’t curtail the mind or hand-cuff inventors. Software on a PC and even in new gadgets (depending on circumstances) is a very low barrier playing field. This means monopolies will have huge costs. Gain 10 monopolies (things you could still do without a patent system) but lose many many times that number in things you can’t do but otherwise could were it not for the patents others took out. With a low barrier playing field, patents remove/abridge many many rights; they exact a huge cost.

    All monopolies not justified by the Constitution (eg, if they don’t promote the progress of science and useful arts) abridge individual’s rights and hence violate the 1st, 9th, and/or 10th Amendments.

    I am not a lawyer. A flaw in the above argument should not condemn the rest. I also rushed this post. There is so much to be said over this tragedy that is software patents.

    Thanks for taking the time to hear me out.

    PS: FOSS is a proof of concept of the costs involved and injustices that would occur (to society and to individual’s rights) if we allow software monopolies. While some painstakingly build, others summarize those inventions and hence gain supermonopoly rights. And the bias is clearly towards the wealthy, discriminating against not just those that prefer to develop inventions instead of patents but against those with lower monetary resources.
    *******

What Else is New


  1. Replacing Patent Sharks/Trolls and the Patent Mafia With 'Icons' Like Thomas Edison

    The popular perceptions of patents and the sobering reality of what patents (more so nowadays) mean to actual inventors who aren't associated with global behemoths such as IBM or Siemens



  2. The Patent Trolls' Lobby is Distorting the Record of CAFC on PTAB

    The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC), which deals with appeals from PTAB, has been issuing many decisions in favour of § 101, but those aren't being talked about or emphasised by the patent 'industry'



  3. Japan Demonstrates Sanity on SEP Policy While US Patent Policy is Influenced by Lobbyists

    Japan's commendable response to a classic pattern of patent misuse; US patent policy is still being subjected to never-ending intervention and there is now a lobbyist in charge of antitrust matters and a lawyer in charge of the US patent office (both Trump appointees)



  4. The Patent Microcosm's Embrace of Buzzwords and False Marketing Strives to Make Patent Examiners Redundant and Patent Quality Extremely Low

    Patent maximalists, who are profiting from abundance of low-quality patents (and frivolous lawsuits/legal threats these can entail), are riding the hype wave and participating in the rush to put patent systems at the hands of machines



  5. Today, at 12:30 CET, Bavarian State Parliament Will Speak About EPO Abuses

    The politicians of Bavaria are prepared to wrestle with some serious questions about the illegality of the EPO's actions and what that may mean to constitutional aspects of German law



  6. Another Loud Warning From EPO Workers About the Decline of Patent Quality

    Yet more patent quality warnings are being issued by EPO insiders (examiners) who are seeing their senior colleagues vanishing and wonder what will be left of their employer



  7. Links 19/2/2018: Linux 4.16 RC2, Nintendo Switch Now Full-fledged GNU/Linux

    Links for the day



  8. PTAB Continues to Invalidate a Lot of Software Patents and to Stop Patent Examiners From Issuing Them

    Erasure of software patents by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) carries on unabated in spite of attempts to cause controversy and disdain towards PTAB



  9. The Patent 'Industry' Likes to Mention Berkheimer and Aatrix to Give the Mere Impression of Section 101/Alice Weakness

    Contrary to what patent maximalists keep saying about Berkheimer and Aatrix (two decisions of the Federal Circuit from earlier this month, both dealing with Alice-type challenges), neither actually changed anything in any substantial way



  10. Makan Delrahim is Wrong; Patents Are a Major Antitrust Problem, Sometimes Disguised Using Trolls Somewhere Like the Eastern District of Texas

    Debates and open disagreements over the stance of the lobbyist who is the current United States Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division



  11. Patent Trolls Watch: Microsoft-Connected Intellectual Ventures, Finjan, and Rumour of Technicolor-InterDigital Buyout

    Connections between various patent trolls and some patent troll statistics which have been circulated lately



  12. Software Patents Trickle in After § 101/Alice, But Courts Would Not Honour Them Anyway

    The dawn of § 101/Alice, which in principle eliminates almost every software patent, means that applicants find themselves having to utilise loopholes to fool examiners, but that's unlikely to impress judges (if they ever come to assessing these patents)



  13. In Aatrix v Green Shades the Court is Not Tolerating Software Patents But Merely Inquires/Wonders Whether the Patents at Hand Are Abstract

    Aatrix alleges patent infringement by Green Shades, but whether the patents at hand are abstract or not remains to be seen; this is not what patent maximalists claim it to be ("A Valentine for Software Patent Owners" or "valentine for patentee")



  14. An Indoctrinated Minority is Maintaining the Illusion That Patent Policy is to Blame for All or Most Problems of the United States

    The zealots who want to patent everything under the Sun and sue everyone under the Sun blame nations in the east (where the Sun rises) for all their misfortunes; this has reached somewhat ludicrous levels



  15. Berkheimer Decision is Still Being Spun by the Anti-Section 101/Alice Lobby

    12 days after Berkheimer v HP Inc. the patent maximalists continue to paint this decision as a game changer with regards to patent scope; the reality, however, is that this decision will soon be forgotten about and will have no substantial effect on either PTAB or Alice (because it's about neither of these)



  16. Academic Patent Immunity is Laughable and Academics Are Influenced by Corporate Money (for Steering Patent Agenda)

    Universities appear to have become battlegrounds in the war between practicing entities and a bunch of parasites who make a living out of litigation and patent bubbles



  17. UPC Optimism Languishes Even Among Paid UPC Propagandists Such as IAM

    Even voices which are attempting to give UPC momentum that it clearly lacks admit that things aren't looking well; the UK is not ratifying and Germany make take years to look into constitutional barriers



  18. Bejin Bieneman Props Up the Disgraced Randall Rader for Litigation Agenda

    Randall Rader keeps hanging out with the litigation 'industry' -- the very same 'industry' which he served in a closeted fashion when he was Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit (and vocal proponent of software patents, patent trolls and so on)



  19. With Stambler v Mastercard, Patent Maximalists Are Hoping to Prop Up Software Patents and Damage PTAB

    The patent 'industry' is hoping to persuade the highest US court to weaken the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), for PTAB is making patent lawsuits a lot harder and raises the threshold for patent eligibility



  20. Apple Discovers That Its Patent Disputes Are a Losing Battle Which Only Lawyers Win (Profit From)

    By pouring a lot of money and energy into the 'litigation card' Apple lost focus and it's also losing some key cases, as its patents are simply not strong enough



  21. The Patent Microcosm Takes Berkheimer v HP Out of Context to Pretend PTAB Disregards Fact-Finding Process

    In view or in light of a recent decision (excerpt above), patent maximalists who are afraid of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) try to paint it as inherently unjust and uncaring for facts



  22. Microsoft Has Left RPX, But RPX Now Pays a Microsoft Patent Troll, Intellectual Ventures

    The patent/litigation arms race keeps getting a little more complicated, as the 'arms' are being passed around to new and old entities that do nothing but shake-downs



  23. UPC Has Done Nothing for Europe Except Destruction of the EPO and Imminent Layoffs Due to Lack of Applications and Lowered Value of European Patents

    The Unified Patent Court (UPC) is merely a distant dream or a fantasy for litigators; to everyone else the UPC lobby has done nothing but damage, including potentially irreparable damage to the European Patent Office, which is declining very sharply



  24. Links 17/2/2018: Mesa 17.3.4, Wine 3.2, Go 1.10

    Links for the day



  25. Patent Trolls Are Thwarted by Judges, But Patent Lawyers View Them as a 'Business' Opportunity

    Patent lawyers are salivating over the idea that trolls may be coming to their state/s; owing to courts and the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) other trolls' software patents get invalidated



  26. Microsoft's Patent Moves: Dominion Harbor, Intellectual Ventures, Intellectual Discovery, NEC and Uber

    A look at some of the latest moves and twists, as patents change hands and there are still signs of Microsoft's 'hidden hand'



  27. Links 15/2/2018: GNOME 3.28 Beta, Rust 1.24

    Links for the day



  28. Bavarian State Parliament Has Upcoming Debate About Issues Which Can Thwart UPC for Good

    An upcoming debate about Battistelli's attacks on the EPO Boards of Appeal will open an old can of worms, which serves to show why UPC is a non-starter



  29. The EPO is Being Destroyed and There's Nothing Left to Replace It Except National Patent Offices

    It looks like Battistelli is setting up the European Patent Office (EPO) for mass layoffs; in fact, it looks as though he is so certain that the UPC will materialise that he obsesses over "validation" for mass litigation worldwide, departing from a "model office" that used to lead the world in terms of patent quality and workers' welfare/conditions



  30. IBM is Getting Desperate and Now Suing Microsoft Over Lost Staff, Not Just Suing Everyone Using Patents

    IBM's policy when it comes to patents, not to mention its alignment with patent extremists, gives room for thought if not deep concern; the company rapidly becomes more and more like a troll


CoPilotCo

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

CoPilotCo

Recent Posts