11.16.14

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Another Massive Step Towards Elimination of Software Patents as Even CAFC Rules Against Them

Posted in Courtroom, Patents at 5:50 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

CAFC may finally be seen as regaining some sanity

Daniel Mortimer Friedman

Summary: After SCOTUS gets involved in the Ultramercial case, the CAFC finally decides to actually serve justice rather than dogma

The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) has been by far the most zealously pro-software patents court, perhaps in the entire world. It’s where software patents originally came from.

Dennis Crouch, who is himself somewhat of a patents booster, sees the significance of a new ruling from CAFC. See his article titled “Federal Circuit: Novelty in Implementation of an Abstract Idea Insufficient to Overcome Alice”. This actually relates to a ruling from SCOTUS then (‘Alice’ to be specific), overriding a previous ruling from CAFC.

This is potentially a to-be-widely-cited decision that can be huge for software patents (or against them rather). There is lots of coverage in the press about it [1, 2, 3]. Here is one introduction to the case:

In tech, patent trolls do not settle for small victories; they tend to go big, claiming that their one vague patent gives them the rights over gigantic swaths of the digital world. One troll insists that it owns the patent that covers all podcasting. Another claims it can lord over the maker of any app that asks users to submit data. And a particularly bold troll has spent years claiming it owns the rights to the very concept of playing advertisements before a free online videos—and it has tried shaking down YouTube and Hulu for royalty payments.

As the EFF put it:

On September 9, 2009, a patent troll called Ultramercial sued a bunch of Internet companies alleging infringement of U.S. Patent 7,346,545. This patent claims a method for allowing Internet users to view copyrighted material free of charge in exchange for watching certain advertisements. Yes, you read that correctly. Ultramercial believed that it owned the idea of showing an ad before content on the Internet.

TechDirt did the best kind of coverage by being bluntly honest. “It looks like the Ultramercial saga may finally be ending,” it said. “As we’ve been covering for many years, Ultramercial held a patent (7,346,545) on watching an ad to get access to content, and it sued lots of companies. While a lower court rejected the patent, CAFC (the appeals court for the Federal Circuit, which handles all patent cases) overturned that ruling. The key issue: is something patentable if you take a common idea and just add “on the internet.” CAFC said yes. The Supreme Court asked CAFC to try again following its own ruling in the Mayo case (which said you couldn’t patent medical diagnostics). But CAFC still found the patent to be valid. Finally, earlier this year, following the Alice ruling, the Supreme Court gave CAFC a third try to get it right.”

It’s actually SCOTUS which deserves some credit here. The Ultramercial-friendly CAFC has ultimately wasted so much money of innocent people and businesses, showing the great harm of software patents. It’s only when Ultramercial faced the wrath of SCOTUS that the CAFC had to rule based on actual law, which to CAFC would be the exception (it is a very corrupt court in general, with plenty to show for it).

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