Today the U.S. Supreme Court reported its long-awaited business method / software / computer system patentability decision in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International.

by John Roberts on June 19, 2014

Today the U.S. Supreme Court reported its long-awaited business method / software / computer system patentability decision in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International (link below). The Court affirmed that Alice’s patents for computer-implemented methods of reducing settlement risk were unpatentable “abstract ideas.” This case reached the high court after a severely split Federal Circuit could not agree whether language of the claims met the patent-eligibility requirements of 35 U.S.C. § 101 under the Supreme Court’s other recent decisions on this topic. Unfortunately, today’s decision in Alice Corp. is unlikely to add much clarity or predictability to the law going forward.

This case could have and should have been decided as an obviousness case under § 103, because the “idea” was well known, and it was at least arguably obvious to implement the idea on a computer. But instead of resolving the case under that established and (relatively) non-controversial body of law, the Court fell into the trap of forcing the analysis though § 101, which led the Court to rely on the legal fiction of an “abstract idea.” The problem is that all ideas are abstract. Unlike the rules against patenting laws of nature or natural phenomena under § 101, which are usually easy to understand and apply, there is no principled distinction between “abstract” and “non-abstract” ideas. And calling an idea “abstract” simply because it is well known and important to the economy, as the Supreme Court expressly did here, is rhetoric, not analysis. Nonetheless, that is what we are left with as the law of the land after Bilski and now Alice Corp.

The holdings of this case and Bilski appear to be that: “[any] fundamental economic practice long prevalent in our system of commerce” shall be deemed an unpatentable “abstract idea” under § 101, regardless whether it is implemented in a way that could only be accomplished on a computer system. See page 12 of today’s opinion, attached.

No. 13–298. Argued March 31, 2014—Decided June 19, 2014

John Roberts

812-418-3663

www.indianapatentlawyer.com

13-298_7lh8.pdf

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