The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled several software patents invalid because the patents did not cover a detailed process, but an abstract idea. This could place a number of dubious patents in software, technology, and science at risk of being invalidated in the future, too.
It may set a very important precedent for other legal cases involving lawsuits involving “patent trolls”. Currently, the most well-known of these actions has been efforts by Personal Audio to extort money from podcasters by threatening lawsuits based on supposed infringement of patents Personal Audio claims cover podcasting.
A key element of patent trolling is the inherent vagueness of the patent, which allows the concept of infringement to be drawn as widely as possible. The vague patent interpretation that makes patent trolling possible makes them vulnerable to being viewed as too broad, too abstract, or too vague by the courts and the US Patent Office. Indeed, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has reported success with getting the US Patent Office to narrow or invalidate overbroad patents.
This ruling may add another arrow to the quiver of those fighting the abuse of patents to stifle innovation*.
Hat tip to Giles Newton
*And your ability to listen to the WTF Podcast.