Are claims to computer-implemented inventions—including claims to systems and machines, processes, and items of manufacture—patent-eligible subject matter?
Alice Corporation was granted patents on several processes and systems relating to the use of computer software to facilitate securities trading and reduce risks of parties not fulfilling contractual obligations. CLS Bank developed software for its own use in similar transactions. CLS brought an action for declaratory judgment, asserting that Alice’s patents were subject-matter ineligible because they did no more than recite abstract ideas regarding fundamental economic concepts. Alice counterclaimed, asserting that CLS infringed Alice’s patents. The district court found the Alice patents invalid, but the Federal Circuit reversed, holding that Alice’s patents fell within the “abstract ideas” exception to the generally broad policy of patent eligibility. Alice argues that the abstract ideas exception is meant to be read narrowly and apply to fundamental truths such as facts of nature. CLS counters that Alice’s patents merely cover fundamental economic concepts and that these should fall within the exception. At issue is a basic question about the scope of patent-eligible subject matter, and the breadth of the abstract ideas exception. The Court’s decision could fundamentally alter the scope of what is patentable. The decision may encourage innovation in the software and other industries by rewarding those who expend resources to bring about a useful product to the public.
Whether claims to computer-implemented inventions—including claims to systems and machines, processes, and items of manufacture—are directed to patent-eligible subject matter within the meaning of 35 U.S.C. § 101 as interpreted by this Court?
- Rich Steeves, Supreme Court to Rule on Software Patents, Inside Counsel, Feb. 27, 2014.
- Jim Singer, Business Forum: High Court to Address Software Patents, Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette, Feb. 21, 2014.