Google, Facebook, Zynga and five other tech companies, including Dell, have filed an amicus brief in an ongoing legal case between two financial institutions asking that the court to reject patent claims that are over-broad and abstract, arguing that they stifle innovation.
The case between CLS Bank and Alice Corp. revolves on four patents apparently being infringed which involve a “data processing system to enable the exchange of an obligation between parties.” The trouble with that patent claim is that it is vague enough that it could apply to almost any piece of technology, from a computer to a smartphone. A portion of the tech companies’ filing reads:
Many computer-related patent claims just describe an abstract idea at a high level of generality and say to perform it on a computer or over the Internet. Such barebones claims grant exclusive rights over the abstract idea itself, with no limit on how the idea is implemented. Granting patent protection for such claims would impair, not promote, innovation by conferring exclusive rights on those who have not meaningfully innovated, and thereby penalizing those that do later innovate by blocking or taxing their applications of the abstract idea.”
The brief adds:
It is easy to think of abstract ideas about what a computer or website should do, but the difficult, valuable, and often groundbreaking part of online innovation comes next: designing, analyzing, building, and deploying the interface, software, and hardware to implement that idea in a way that is useful in daily life. Simply put, ideas are much easier to come by than working implementations.
The argument against vague patents comes at a time when the tech industry is embroiled in patent cases. If courts can be persuaded to throw out or invalidate over-broad patents, particularly those that are without working implementations, the tech industry will likely sleep better at night. Patent trolls would also be forced to attempt to monetize their patents outside of the courtroom.