Federal appeals court splits on patentability of software and business methods

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit [official website] on Friday ruled [opinion, PDF] per curiam that an abstract idea is not patentable simply because it is tied to a computer system. Analysts say the ruling could have severe implications [IDG News report] on software and business method patents. In the case, CLS Bank v. Alice Corporation, plaintiff Alice's four software patents, US Patent Numbers 5,970,479 (the '479 patent), 6,912,510 (the '510 patent), 7,149,720 (the '720 patent) and 7,725,375 (the '375 patent) [text, PDF], which cover a computerized trading platform for currencies, were argued by defendant CLS to be too abstract to be patentable. Writing for a five judge plurality, Judge Alan Lourie stated that adding "generic computer functions to facilitate performance" does not meet the requirement that there be "significantly more" than merely an underlying abstract idea. Partial concurring and dissenting opinions were also filed by Chief Judge Randall Rader, Judge Kimberly Moore and Judge Pauline Newman.

Apple, Google and Samsung [corporate websites] have been embroiled in continuous patent litigation [JURIST report] in courts around the world. Last month the US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments [JURIST report] in the case of Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc. [cert. petition PDF; JURIST report], which deals with the issue of whether human genes are patentable. The court granted certiorari [JURIST report] to hear the case last December. In September 2011 President Barack Obama signed [JURIST report] the America Invents Act (AIA) [text, PDF; HR 1249 materials] into law. The AIA changed the patent system from first-to-invent to first-to-file, allowing the US Patent & Trademark Office [official website] to keep all of the fees generated from patent filing rather than having them diverted by Congress, allowing third parties to introduce relevant material to patent examiners during the patent application review process and removing the "best mode" requirement from patents.

 

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