Alice doesn’t patent here any more

The US Supreme Court is hearing a really important case today that will have a huge effect on computer software.

The Patent Office lacks the skills to make sense of computer software patents, and most people in the software business think software and business process software patents are out of control.

This specific case involves a patent issued to manage escrow accounts “using a computer”. The concept of an escrow account is not patentable as it has existed for centuries – but tack on “using a computer” and suddenly it is. The “inventor” doesn’t have to actually have a functioning product – but with patent in hand, they can demand payments from anyone using computers to track escrow accounts.

Defending against patent trolls is enormously expensive – while I was working at NASDAQ, they were sued by a patent claiming “invention” of the idea of showing bid prices on the left side and offer prices on the right side using a computer terminal.

The concept of a market having a chalkboard and showing the buy price on the left and the sell price on the right so the crowd can have knowledge of prices probably goes back 2,500 years.

NASDAQ ultimately won and the patent was thrown out after spending many millions of dollars. It scared them so much they went into the vague patent business (my name is on several of patents as co inventor even though I opposed the patents – I was a former employee and had no contractural obligation to assign any rights to them).

The possibility of software patent trolls is part of the reason there is no revenue stream here by design. 10% of all my profits ($0) is still $0.00

I hope they really swing a huge sledgehammer at this. Software will still have copyright and trademark protection, but patent protection on concepts has to go. I wish Congress would have clarified patents by a law – but way too many of them are lawyers.

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8 Responses to Alice doesn’t patent here any more

  1. Rick.Blibit says:

    I know that when they fight the USPTO, Uncle Sam has deep pockets and lots of layers, and they WILL use them -BUT- I suspect it is ONLY if the Director has some testicular fortitude and stands his or her ground and KNOWS the law and it is valid decision. And that may very well be part of the problem – Squishy, spineless persons in high places. The new AIA may have some changes in store for them, too. I read it caused a literal FLOOD of new applications – then saw an email that said in Sept., instead of the usual 6K to 7K apps per week – there will be one week where they publish over 30K (no typo there – 30,000+) new Published Applications in ONE WEEK. Law firms must have been holding them – JUST WAITING for the new “First To File” rule to replace the 200 year old tried and true “First to Invent” rule. Now we really ARE like wussy Europe. “We’re all good socialists now…” (over my DEAD body). They probably already have examiners jumping off their new palace up there in Old Town Alexandria – Jump… NEXT… Jump… NEXT… (you there – Jr.! HEAD FIRST! With Oblunder Care we can’t afford to take care of you -IF- you happen to live through the suicide attempt!!) – NEXT!…

  2. briand75 says:

    I am thinking Rick has it right. We outsiders don’t see the patent process and therefore don’t realize that the Patent Examiner is the first line of defense in Patent stupidity. I saw an ad where Mr. Somebody held three patents on the expand0-some crap – hose. Really? Polyvinyl tubing inside a protective sleeve that straightens out and expands under pressure – three patents on an interesting visual trick? Egads.

  3. Rick.Blibit says:

    Just a couple of thoughts – I really don’t think we shouldn’t be selling military hardware/software so sophisticated (and possibly dangerous to us) that it NEEDS a backdoor to keep us safe, especially at the rate our current administration is making enemies – any friends, most for over a century are downright angry with us – justifiably!).
    On another semi-related topic – I believe that there ARE some things in computer software that need patent protection, but the very idea of simply automating ANY process by adding a computer and claiming it deserves protection should never have gotten by a patent examiner to begin with. For some reason, the whole concept of an “invention” or what truly constitutes a new and novel method or process for doing something says more about the training, or rather the LACK and quality of training, we give our 5000+ examiners, and assistant examiners. I can only think of the infamous “One Click Purchase” and begin to puke my guts out as its WORTHLESSNESS rolls around in my head. But yes, I DO agree, they do need to take a hatchet and cut a REAL BIG CHUNK off of what so many of these small minded, greedy people think constitutes a real, new, novel, METHOD or PROCESS in software. Even when they get it right, the examiner usually screws up on the claims and allows OVERLY bread protection based on some wishy-washy elements in subsequent or dependent claims – and this leaves BIG headaches for the courts to sort out when a properly trained examiner should have said, “I don’t see an invention here – this is nothing but automating a manual process with a computer. PROTECTION DENIED. Have a nice day.”

    • Art Stone says:

      If the examiner says no, the applicant goes to court and the USPTO gets stretched even thinner with its staff and budget. If they say “granted”, then the lawyers get to fight it out. There is no incentive for the USPTO to say rejected. The three patents I was named co-inventor on are jibbeish – which I told them when I refused to sign the patent applications.

  4. Nidster says:

    Speaking of what might have a huge effect is the Principle of Unintended Consequences regarding computer software. Consider for example all of the negative aspects and Backlash due to the global Spying being done by the NSA. For example, thanks to Snowden we now know about all the ‘backdoors’ being installed in computer systems and of course in military ‘hardware’ systems produced by the USA. Now that these revelations are out in the open it appears to be leading to Brazil’s cancellation of contracts for fighter jets produced by Boeing, and switching over to Sweden’s Saab company for similar fighter jets. While the Saab jets may lack certain sophistications not found in Boeing’s fighter jets, at least Brazil will no longer fear their USA produced fighter jets will ‘crash and burn’ at inappropriate times should the need ever arise where Brazil needs to defend itself against hostilities with the USA.

    Anyways, that should be the least of the worries the USA might face as the Blowback continues to grow in other areas as countries begin to compete against US software corporations due to growing concerns over possible ‘backdoors’ being placed in computer operating systems.

    Another looming problem was the inability of the NSA to intercept Russia’s military communications during the Crimea annexation.

    As the realization grows in al-Obama’s Regime that his sanctions against Russia are not going to be honored by important countries such as Brazil, China, France, India and now Germany, is more evidence we are seeing a repeat of history. The War of the League of Cambrai was a war against a nation of evil oligarchs who were controlling the world, and there was a terrible revolt.

  5. Nidster says:

    What you are overlooking here is ‘they’ (those who are against us) already own the PATENT on your DNA and your SOUL. Sorry if that upsets your outlook on Life, but Hells Bells, there is almost Nothing you can do to thwart what has already been established in PATENT LAW.

  6. Art Stone says:

    Well, the anecdotes suggest the judges may just make a narrow ruling on the specific facts of the case, which would be unfortunate. There are 10s of thousands of these cases floating around. There is one involving using a computer to operate radio equipment that radio stations are getting demand letters for. If the don’t wipe out the concept of computer software patents that might show up, people will eventually shy away from using computers at all.

  7. CC1s121LrBGT says:

    ” I wish Congress would have clarified patents by a law”.

    Not something you can really do. A patent is an implementation of a new idea. What is a new idea? If two columns on a computer are not a new idea, what about three? What about pointing and clicking? Didn’t that pointing and clicking idea come from the Kodak Instamatic cameras? … or was it their cross town rival after all, Xerox?

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