Patents. Nothing gets technologists going quite like the subject of patents and when — if ever — they should be implemented in software.
Now, a federal appeals court is taking a sweeping look at the topic of software patenting, especially when software takes age-old concepts and brings them to digital life without making a significant technological or novel contribution along the way.
For example, look at shoe shopping. It’s been around since, well, shoes. If ecommerce outlet ShoeDazzle wanted to patent the concept of online shoe shopping, they wouldn’t be able to do so because the concept is simply the web-based implementation of an existing activity or idea.
But that doesn’t stop patent trolls from taking advantage of a currently broken system and patenting the heck out of some very basic, universal, and even trivial technologies.
Experts feel this case may eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court — and with the most recent spate of patent warfare between Apple, Google (and Google-related manufacturers), and Microsoft, especially in the mobile arena, we’d say it’s about damn time.
The current case pits CLS Bank International against Alice Corp. Both parties use computer software systems as intermediaries to assist buyers and sellers in foreign exchange markets. Alice thinks that idea is patentable. CLS wants the patent invalidated.
Siding with the anti-patent CLS are Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Sprint, and eBay. Siding with the pro-patent Alice are IBM and a small army of patent trolls.
For our part, we side with innovation. And our consistent editorial stance has been that patents — the way they’re granted and used today, at least — stifle, hinder, and smother innovation in ways that are excruciating to watch.
Here’s the document describing the case more fully: