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

06.29.10

Bilski Case Analyses: Good News, Bad News

Posted in Courtroom, Law, Microsoft, Patents at 3:48 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Supreme Court US, 2009

Summary: The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) provides ruling on the Bilski case; we take a preliminary look at the apparent outcome, with particular emphasis on the impact when it comes to software

YESTERDAY evening we posted the full text of the SCOTUS ruling regarding Bilski and added some immediate commentary. We assume that the huge number of analyses have been read by now and since we are not lawyers, we cannot offer anything too valuable or novel. Instead, here is a rundown encompassing some more coverage and opinions.

Over the weekend, just before this decision came, we found some of the following articles that are relevant to the subject:

i. Decision about the Second Amendment Case to be Ruled Today

After the decision of U.S. Supreme Court to regulate the Second Amendment case, Carl Bindenagel revealed the court’s record on earlier gun rights cases.

ii. Supreme Court Finale

Tom Goldstein of scotusblog.com believes that the Constitution will win out, but isn’t sure how far the Court will go in terms of raising questions about firearms regulations.

That will be an important part of today’s decision.

Three other cases will be decided today on student religious organizations on college campuses, a major case on software patents and whether a key part of the Sarbanes-Oxley (post Enron) law is constitutional.

iii. Will The Supreme Court Clean Up the Patent Mess?

I did my original patent posts in 2008, shortly after the Federal Circuit heard oral arguments in In Re Bilski, a case involving a “business method” patent. There was a growing consensus that the patent system was broken, and high expectations that the court would use it as an opportunity to reform the rules for patent eligibility. The decision was released later in the year, and it did just that, overturning the extremely permissive standard for patentability that had applied for the preceding decade.

The case is now before the Supreme Court, which is due to hand down its decison on Monday. Virtually everyone expects the high to affirm the Federal Circuit’s rejection of Mr. Bilski’s patent, but as always the important question is what’s in the accompanying opinion. A narrow holding could simply rule out the most egregiously abstract business method patents (Mr. Bilski’s “invention” consisted entirely of mental steps) while leaving the bulk of software and business method patents untouched. But if the Supreme Court is feeling more ambitious, it may try to draw a new line that invalidates many existing business method and maybe even deal with the sotware controversy.

iv. Patent Litigation Weekly: With Bilski, the Waiting Is the Hardest Part

Patent Watchtroll, a rude lawyer who has been lobbying for software patents, wrote about it and he seems to be supporting his position by warping/faking the oppositions’ point of view or avoiding the mainstream opinion and instead asking a student. The headline says “Programmers Perspective”, not “Programmer’s Perspective” (making it seem like a talk on behalf of many). As the first comment says: “im calling you out, your a patent lawyer trying to support your position as a “programmer” using the pseudonym “andrew cole””

There are other legal types who crave positive perspectives on monopoly (that’s what a patent is). It is abundantly clear that lawyers are ruining science through the patent system, which to them is a form of tax on science.

Patently-O, which mostly attracts the legal types (with bias), ran this Bilski poll just before the decision arrived. When the decision finally came it correctly stated that:

The result is that the scope of patentable subject matter is certainly narrowed from its 1998 high-water-mark.

Yes, this is true and that’s good news. Here is another take:

Supreme Court Rules Narrowly In Bilski; Business Method & Software Patents Survive

As I expected it appears that the Supreme Court has ruled somewhat narrowly in the Bilski case (pdf), which many had hoped would end the scourge of business method and software patents. Instead, the court effectively punted the issue. Technically it affirmed the overall decision from the Federal Circuit that Bilski’s specific patent was invalid for being way too broad, but much more importantly for everyone else, it rolled back the Federal Circuit’s “machine-or-transformation” test, which many believed effectively ruled out pure software patents. Instead, the court said that the courts “should not read into the patent laws limitations and condi-tions which the legislature has not expressed.” In other words, business method and software patents survive.

The good news is that the “Supreme Court Throws Out Bilski Patent,” as Ciaran/Slashdot summarised it.

ciaran_o_riordan writes “The US Supreme Court has finally decided the Bilski case (PDF). We’ve known that Bilski’s patent would get thrown out; that was clear from the open mockery from the judges during last November’s hearing. The big question is, since rejecting a particular patent requires providing a general test and explaining why this patent fails that test, how broad will their test be? Will it try to kill the plague of software patents? And is their test designed well enough to stand up to the army of patent lawyers who’ll be making a science (and a career) of minimizing and circumventing it? The judges have created a new test, so this will take some reading before any degree of victory can be declared. The important part is pages 5-16 of the PDF, which is the majority opinion. The End Software Patents campaign is already analyzing the decision, and collecting other analyses. Some background is available at Late-comers guide: What is Bilski anyway?”

An interesting but forgotten fact is that Ginsburg attended the Bilski hearing despite her husband’s death the prior day. This was pointed out by Groklaw, which offers an extensive summary (news survey) and links to coverage excepting news sources.

Anti-IBM lobbyist Florian Müller says that “the US Supreme Court accepts only one way to limit software patentability: new legislation from Congress [...] Only a decision to grant a patent on the Bilski application could have been any less restrictive”

Müller mass-mailed journalists (as usual) to spread his point of view. He wrote:

Please feel free to use in your reporting on the Bilski decision any of these comments. I’m the author of the FOSS Patents blog (and founder and former director of the NoSoftwarePatents campaign) on the Bilski decision and what it means for the patentability of software.

Here are a few select quotes, and further below the URL of my posting and the complete text.

“Unfortunately, the Supreme Court delivered an opinion that doesn’t help the cause of partial or complete abolition of software patents at all.”

“[T]he court’s majority position is about the most liberal reasoning that it could have been. Only a decision to uphold the Bilski patent could have been any less restrictive.

“Simply put, the Supreme Court’s decision does not do away with even one software patent that already exists, nor does it raise the bar for the future.”

“The decision announced today makes it clear that a majority of the Supreme Court wanted to give the abolition of even only a small percentage of all software patents the widest berth possible.”

“This US decision is even more disappointing when taking into account the global trend.” [then mentions political process in New Zealand and court decision in Germany]

“The position that software patents should be abolished isn’t nearly as popular among judges and politicians as it is in the free and open source software community.”

The upcoming Defensive Patent License (DPL) is recommended at the end of the blog posting.

Here’s the URL and the full text:

http://fosspatents.blogspot.com/2010/06/bilski-decision-major-disappointment.html

We still urge Müller to stop mass-mailing journalists. If you find the quotes above in some news articles, you’ll know why. He tries using shortcuts to get his point heard and inject his name into articles (which he later cites with pride). We especially oppose his illusion that IBM is the root of all evil.

“I mentioned Microsoft in the same lobbying contexts as IBM,” he told us separately, “on EU patent reform and today the reference to New Zealand. Plus I link in the righthand column to a slashdot op-ed that mentions Steve Ballmer.

“I also think(not at PC, writing this on phone, can’t check) in a posting that I don’t like their lobbying for software patents. Maybe the one on LinuxTag.”

“Hopes and Dreams of “IP Sucks” Crowd Shattered – Cheers!”
      –ACT, Microsoft lobbyist
That hardly changes anything. In his book he wrote about Microsoft’s lobbyists, but now he’s just ignoring them for the most part (or ignoring their ties). But anyway, let’s get back to In Re Bilski

Müller showed us that Microsoft lobbying group ACT is “jubilant over SCOTUS decision” (he didn’t mention the Microsoft connection)

ACT wrote: “#SCOTUS Upholds Software Patents. Hopes and Dreams of “IP Sucks” Crowd Shattered – Cheers! – ACT Blog – http://bit.ly/dkzLay #bilski”

One reader showed us that ACT's Mike Sax (seen here) has just had an article published about him in Standaard. He admits being supported by Microsoft (while evidently pretending to serve small businesses).

Het dunbevolkte Oregon met zijn wilde natuur en wouden is niet meteen de meest voor de handliggende locatie voor een technologiebedrijf. Maar Sax is niet van plan te verhuizen. ‘Het zegt veel over technologie dat je niet vanuit een metropool hoeft te werken om toch succesvol te zijn. Idealiter heb je dan ook werknemers die op afstand werken en die daardoor een hoge levenskwaliteit behalen omdat ze in kleine steden wonen, dicht bij hun familie, zonder dat ze hun carrière moeten opgeven.’ Een betoog dat niet toevallig aansluit bij dat van de Association for Competitive Technology (ACT), een organisatie die Sax in 1998 oprichtte en die streeft voor de belangen van kleinere technologiebedrijven -al zijn ook grotere ondernemingen zoals Oracle en Microsoft steunend lid. Het is voor ACT dat Sax opnieuw Brussel bezoekt, om bij Europarlementsleden te pleiten voor een geharmoniseerde privacy- en arbeidswetgeving en een Europees patent.

The last sentence says that Sax is visiting Brussels again, pushing for MEPs to call for the back door to software patents (‘harmonisation’ or ‘European patent’). Who are they kidding? They are Microsoft’s lobbyists and they push for software patents in Europe. Is Müller paying attention at all? Nope. His blog post about the Bilski decision is a defeatist one and it’s titled “Bilski decision a major disappointment: doesn’t invalidate even one software patent”

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has finally handed down its opinion in re Bilski, a business method patent case.

Here is more from Patently-O:

Although Bilski’s claims were held unpatentably abstract, the Supreme Court has re-affirmed that the door to patent eligibility should remain broad and open.

The FFII writes that “Bilski’s business patent [is] rejected by the Supreme Court but no MoT-Test for the rest of US” (machine-or-transformation test).

We’ve been sent a lot of E-mail following this milestone decision and one of them sought publication that related to the MoT-Test:

I know you’ve been actively following the Bilski case on TechRights. In the wake of this morning’s decision, I wanted to pass on some commentary from Barbara Rogan, the Chief Legal Counsel for LogLogic. Barbara has been closely monitoring the decision due to its implications on the tech industry and startups. While the Supreme Court’s decision affirms the Federal Court’s ruling, it also raises a number of other questions in the area of process patents.

Barbara’s commentary below:

What’s Still To Be Decided:

What is a Machine?

  • The Supreme Court agrees with the Federal Circuit that merely using an abstract idea in “a particular technological environment” or by adding “insignificant postsolution [sic] activity” does not transform an otherwise unpatentable invention into a patentable invention.
    • In Bilski, the Federal Circuit ruled that the connection of the process to a machine or apparatus must be more than just “insignificant extra-solution activity” meaning that the machine must be more than a “throw-in” to make the process patentable.
    • In its brief to the Supreme Court, the Respondents argue that using a general purpose machine (i.e. a calculator or a telephone) would not be sufficient for to turn an otherwise non-patentable process into a patentable process.
  • In Yahoo!’s Amicus Curiae brief, Yahoo! Worries that with the Machine or Transformation, processes which are carried out over the Internet (a general purpose series of machines) may fail this test, thus leaving out from patent protection all Internet based processes.
  • Yahoo!’s concern is not theoretical. While the Bilski case was pending in the Supreme Court, the District Court in Northern California in Cybersource Corporation v. Retail Decisions, used the Machine or Transformation Test to find that the defendant’s motion for summary judgment in a patent infringement suit should be granted because the patent was likely on unpatentable subject matter. The process patent in question was an Internet based process patent.
    • In light of Bilski decision, it would seem that the District Court should re-examine its ruling as the Supreme Court indicated the Machine or Transformation test is NOT the exclusive test for determining process invention patentability.
  • Another question that is open and needs to be decided is whether programming a general purpose machine to do a specific task is sufficient to overcome the requirement that the machine not contribute in an “insignificant extra-solution activity” manner.

What is “Transformation” in the Digital Age?

  • The meaning of transformation as it applies to digital information has yet to be decided. In oral arguments, Justice Sotomayor suggests that electronic signals may be a “substance” which would differentiate it from a pure process completed outside of a computer. Based on this reasoning, a viable argument could be made that the electronic processes transform the information from one type or state into another type or state. This would free digital technology patents from the need to be tied to a machine for the purposes of obtaining a patent.

What inventions might be still be patentable if they fail the Machine or Transformation Test?

Justice Stevens tried to do that right thing, but upon his retirement there is generally a feeling that he didn’t have enough power to counter his peers and knock out software patents.

In April, the Supreme Court’s most senior justice, John Paul Stevens, announced his retirement. Since then, hundreds of articles have been written about his career and his legacy. While most articles focus on “hot button” issues such as flag burning, terrorism, and affirmative action, Stevens’s tech policy record has largely been ignored.

When Justice Stevens joined the court, many of the technologies we now take for granted—the PC, packet-switched networks, home video recording—were in their infancy. During his 35-year tenure on the bench, Stevens penned decisions that laid the foundation for the tremendous innovations that followed in each of these areas.

[...]

The high court took a renewed interest in patent issues when John Roberts was elevated to Chief Justice, but the court hasn’t squarely addressed the software patent issue. The closest they came was in today’s Bilski decision, in which the majority handed down a narrow ruling that invalidated the specific patent at issue in the case but declined to articulate a clear standard for patent eligibility.

It is possible to see Stevens’ portions in this ruling. The following Bilski analysis highlights a portion that says: “But this fact does not mean that unforeseen innovations such as computer programs are always unpatentable” (covered in [1, 2, 3]). The bottom line is — as Stephen Shankland put it — the Supreme Court sidesteps software patent issue. But it doesn’t make it a loss for software freedom; it just leaves the USPTO in a limbo.

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

What Else is New


  1. Recognising the Death of Software Patents, Microsoft's Largest Ally in India Belatedly Joins the Linux-Centric Open Invention Network

    With the demise of software patents come some interesting new developments, including the decision at Infosys — historically very close to Microsoft and a proponent of software patents — to join the Open Invention Network (OIN)



  2. LG Not Only Suing Rivals Using Patents But is Also Passing Patents for Trolls Like Sentegra to Sue

    LG gives yet more reasons for a boycott, having just leveraged not just patents but also patent trolls in a battle against a competitor



  3. March 29th: The Day the Unitary Patent (UPC) Died

    Stating the obvious and proving us right amid Article 50 débâcle



  4. Kongstad and Battistelli Have Staged a Coup at the European Patent Organisation (EPO)

    Discussion about Battistelli and his chinchilla denying national representatives their rights and power to oust Battistelli, who is rapidly destroying not just the Office but also the whole Organisation, Europe's reputation, and the image of France



  5. Europe as the World's Laughing Stock When it Comes to Patent Quality/Scope and the Coming Appeals

    Criticism and embarrassing coverage for the EPO, which has just decided to grant patents even on genome, in defiance of a lot of things



  6. Links 29/3/2017: End of Linux Action Show, Top NSA Partner Pays Linux Foundation

    Links for the day



  7. In Attempt to Promote the Horrific UPC (Poor Quality of Patents Everywhere), Minnoye and Casado Cerviño Attack Their Own Staff for Saying the Truth

    An attack on truth itself -- the disintegration of the European Patent Office (EPO) -- carries on, after staff found the courage to tell delegates what had happened due to Battistelli's policies and incredible oppression that prevails and expands



  8. Another Likely Casualty of the Battistelli Regime at the EPO: Validity of Decisions of Terrified Boards of Appeal Judges

    Under pressure and habitual intervention from a demoralising, overreaching, and out-of-control President (from an entirely different division), examiners and judges 'normalise' the practice of granting patents on genetics -- a very slippery slope in terms of patent scope



  9. Benoît Battistelli 'Pulls an Erdoğan' Faster Than Erdoğan

    An explanation of what the imminent departure of Minnoye (this summer) will mean for Benoît Battistelli and his confidants, who now resemble some of the world's most ruthless dictatorships



  10. With Important Supreme Court Decisions Looming, Mainstream Media Tackles Patent Trolls

    The US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) will soon rule on TC Heartland and Lexmark, potentially restricting abusive patent behaviour even further (making room for freedom to innovate and for competition)



  11. IAM Magazine is Very Blatantly Promoting Patent Trolls and Their Agenda

    IAM Media, which produces a magazine every now and then while posting online every day, maintains its pro-trolls agenda, which is becoming so clear to see that it is definitely worth documenting yet again



  12. A “Perfect Recipe for Fraud” at the European Patent Office (EPO)

    How the world's leading patent office became a world-leading source of abuse, corruption, nepotism, injustice, incompetence, censorship, alleged bribery, pure deception, distortion of media, defamation, and suicides (among many other things)



  13. Techrights Was Right About the Unitary Patent (UPC)

    No Unified Patent Court in the UK and probably nothing like it in the rest of Europe any time soon (if ever)



  14. Patents on Life and Patents on Software Serve to Show That EPO Patent Quality Fell Well Behind the US (PTO)

    Anything goes at the EPO, except dissent; any patent application seems to be grantable, provided one uses simple tricks and persists against overworked examiners who are pressured to increase so-called 'production'



  15. Links 28/3/2017: Linux 4.11-rc4 Kernel Released, Red Hat Surge on Sales

    Links for the day



  16. The Crook Goes to Brussels to Lie About the Unitary Patent (UPC)

    The person who spent years lying about the UPC and severely attacking critics (usually by blatantly lying about them) goes to Brussels for another nose extension



  17. The EPO's HR Roadmap Retrospective

    A look back at the terrible ‘accomplishments’ of the Jesper Kongstad-led Administrative Council, which still issues hogwash and face-saving lies, as one might expect from a protector of Battistelli that lies to national representatives and buries inconvenient topics



  18. Links 26/3/2017: Debian Project Leader Elections, SecureDrop and Alexandre Oliva FSF Winners

    Links for the day



  19. His Master's Voice, Jesper Kongstad, Blocks Discussion of Investigative and Disciplinary Procedures at the EPO

    The Chairman of the Administrative Council of the European Patent Organisation is actively preventing not just the dismissal of Battistelli but also discussion of Battistelli's abuses



  20. Heiko Maas and the State of Germany Viewed as Increasingly Complicit in EPO Scandals and Toxic UPC Agenda

    It is becoming hard if not impossible to interpret silence and inaction from Maas as a form of endorsement for everything the EPO has been doing, with the German delegates displaying more of that apathy which in itself constitutes a form of complicity



  21. With IP Kat Coverage of EPO Scandals Coming to an End (Officially), Techrights and The Register Remain to Cover New Developments

    One final post about the end of Merpel’s EPO coverage, which is unfortunate but understandable given the EPO’s track record attacking the media, including blogs like IP Kat, sites of patent stakeholders, and even so-called media partners



  22. Everyone, Including Patent Law Firms, Will Suffer From the Demise of the EPO

    Concerns about quality of patents granted by the EPO (EPs) are publicly raised by industry/EPO insiders, albeit in an anonymous fashion



  23. Yes, Battistelli's Ban on EPO Strikes (or Severe Limitation Thereof) is a Violation of Human Rights

    Battistelli has curtailed even the right to strike, yet anonymous cowards attempt to blame the staff (as in patent examiners) for not going out of their way to engage in 'unauthorised' strikes (entailing dismissal)



  24. Even the EPO's Administrative Council No Longer Trusts Its Chairman, Battistelli's 'Chinchilla' Jesper Kongstad

    Kongstad's protection of Battistelli, whom he is supposed to oversee, stretches to the point where national representatives (delegates) are being misinformed



  25. Thanks to Merpel, the World Knows EPO Scandals a Lot Better, But It's a Shame That IP Kat Helped UPC

    A look back at Merpel's final post about EPO scandals and the looming threat of the UPC, which UPC opportunists such as Bristows LLP still try hard to make a reality, exploiting bogus (hastily-granted) patents for endless litigation all around Europe



  26. EPO Critics Threatened by Self-Censorship, Comment Censorship, and a Growing Threat to Anonymity

    Putting in perspective the campaign for justice at the EPO, which to a large degree relies on whistleblowers and thus depends a great deal on freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and anonymity



  27. Links 25/3/2017: Maru OS 0.4, C++17 Complete

    Links for the day



  28. Judge and Justice Bashing in the United States, EPC Bashing at the EPO

    Enforcement of the law based on constitutional grounds and based on the European Patent Convention (EPC) in an age of retribution and insults -- sometimes even libel -- against judges



  29. Looking for EPO Nepotism? Forget About Jouve and Look Closely at Europatis Instead.

    Debates about the contract of Jouve with the EPO overlook the elephants in the room, which include companies that are established and run by former EPO chiefs and enjoy a relationship with the EPO



  30. Depressing EPO News: Attacks on Staff, Attacks on Life, Brain Drain, Patents on Life, Patent Trolls Come to Germany, and Spain Being Misled

    A roundup of the latest developments at the EPO combined with feedback from insiders, who are not tolerating their misguided and increasingly abusive management


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