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Court Case Could Result in Limits on Software Patents

Should abstract ideas be patentable?


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit is currently hearing arguments in a case that could have sweeping implications for the software development industry. In the case of CLS Bank v. Alice Corp., the court is considering the question of whether abstract ideas combined with technology should be patentable. Experts say the court is unlikely to eliminate all patents on software, but it could impose new limits on those patents.

Numerous organizations have filed briefs related to the case, including Google, Facebook and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. EFF lawyer Julie Samuels wrote, "There's a really big problem with software patents that doesn't tend to exist with most other patents. Patentees tend to claim a problem ... and then they get a patent on any way of fixing it, as opposed to claiming a specific method, a specific invention accomplishing their goal."

She added, "If software patents were more narrow, then they wouldn't be such a powerful tool for the trolls."

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