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.
The biggest news in technology is that Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, announced that Tesla would no longer attempt to enforce their patents on electric car technology. This has the potential to push electric car manufacturing forward several years in one fell swoop. Referring to Tesla’s patents, Musk wrote:
They have been removed, in the spirit of the open source movement, for the advancement of electric vehicle technology…Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.
–Elon Musk (emphasis mine)
The potential fly in the ointment is the phrase “in good faith”. They are retaining the right to enforce their patents, but choosing not too. It makes Musk’s definition of good faith and the consistency of that definition quite important. Continue reading “Mi Patent, Su Patent?”
According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Edith Ramirez, Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), announced that the FTC is committed to using its investigatory and antitrust powers to take on patent trolls:
First, she revealed that the FTC will conduct a wide-ranging investigation into the conduct of patent trolls. Second, she confirmed that, when appropriate, the FTC is committed to using its antitrust enforcement powers. – Daniel Nazer for EFF