Patent litigation is all over the map in 2012, and no matter who is right or who is wrong in a certain case, it sucks up a lot of corporate resources. This is why Facebook and Google (who was the subject of a very interesting lawsuit recently) are rallying together with an amicus brief and are asking the US State Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to please stop entertaining vague patents.
The brief also has signatures from Zynga, Intuit, Dell, Red Hat and Rackspace. It offers a good deal of advice to the court. It discusses a case between Alice Corp and CLS bank that involves some vague patents. But the brief also makes reference to vague patents generally. Phrases such as ‘over the Internet’ or ‘on computer’ should not be enough to turn an obvious idea into a patenable idea.
According to the brief, this issue is very important in the high tech area. Many computer patent claims describe an abstract idea very generally and say to perform it on a computer, or over the Internet. Such a barebones claim, the brief states, grants exclusive rights over the idea itself, with no limit at all over how such an idea is implemented. Giving patent protection in such a case would impair innovation because it gives exclusive rights to those who have no done meaningful innovation. This later penalizes those who innovate later by either blocking or taxing their application of the idea.
Will this have any effect at all? It’s hard to say, but the more companies speak out on this issue, the more crazy it will seem to ignore what they are saying. This is especially the case given that we are unlikely to see any big companies actively arguing in favor of vague, computer-related patents. But, we’ll just need to wait to see if these pleas have any effect.
In the meantime, companies like Facebook have other big plans for their sites that are also garnering more negative attention.