Government Cloud Authors: Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Dana Gardner, Liz McMillan, Gopala Krishna Behara

Related Topics: Weblogic, Agile Computing, Government Cloud

Weblogic: Article

Supreme Court Case Could Freeze Innovation

The case affects a class of patents know as "business methods" patents

Government News on Ulitzer

In the High-Tech industry, the machinations of the US Supreme Court are, at best, fodder for dinner party trivia questions. There is one case on the Supreme Court docket this year that has the potential to change the way intellectual property protected in the United States, and have a major effect on the software companies who rely on the patent process. It could also have a devastating effect on innovation.

The case, known as ”Bilski v. Kappos” (AKA “In Re Bilski”), has to do with what subject matter can be protected by a patent. In this case, the inventors, Bernard L. Bilski and Rand Warsaw, filed a patent application for a process of hedging risk in energy contracts. The requirement is that invention must be “concrete” and” produce a useful result”.

The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) rejected the inventors’ application, on the grounds that it was too ill-defined. In legal terms, the claimed invention was an un-patentable abstract idea. The inventors appealed to the patent appeals board, and this was rejected as well.

The inventors then appealed to Federal Court, which decided the case “en banc.” When an appeals court decides a case “en banc” this means that the entire appeals court, not just a subset of the sitting judges (which is the norm), writes the decision in the case. En banc decisions are typically reserved for the most important cases – cases where precedent setting law is likely to result.

The case affects a class of patents know as "business methods" patents. While business method patents have been around for a very long time (the Piggly-Wiggly supermarkets were founded based on a patented business process), the case State Street Bank v. Signature Financial Group in 1998, widened the scope for patenting of business processes.

“The Bilski case is particularly important to tech companies, because their technological advances that are software-based processes will have to satisfy Bilski's test for whether such processes are eligible for patent protection under § 101 of the Patent Act,” said Bradley D. Blanche, an intellectual property shareholder in the Orange County office of Greenberg Traurig, LLP.

It should be noted that some companies have a business set up around their intellectual property and licensing. IBM has reported a more than $1B annual intellectual property business, and frequently rewards employees who submit patents. Indeed, IBM joined Novartis in supporting Bilski before the Supreme Court, arguing for “patent protection for broad categories of cutting-edge innovation” rather than link the protection to “primitive physical technology.”

On the opposing side are companies such as Google and Symantec who argue that expanding the scope of business-method patents could expose them to infringement lawsuits over basic mental processes and ideas that are the building blocks of innovation.

I think that Google and Symantec are right. They represent the true innovative spirit of Silicon Valley where entrepreneurs are rewarded for risk taking and embrace the thinking of Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter and creative destruction. If the Bilski application is allowed to go forward, it effectively lowers the bar for patenting all sorts of vague processes. This will create legions of new patent trolls with ill-defined patents, who storm around the high-tech industry looking for companies to use the legal system to extort licensing fees.

At LogLogic we were faced with a similar choice about what path to take when the USPTO granted us a sweeping patent on collecting and managing logs. We at LogLogic could have asserted our patent rights to cast a chilling effect on our competitors. Rather, mindful of our fiduciary obligations to our investors, we chose to adopt a defensive posture instead.

The issues around patents are critical to the high-tech industry and innovation and “In Re Bilski” is sure to have reverberations no matter which way it is decided. Look for a decision to be announced by the Supreme Court in spring 2010.

More Stories By Bill Roth

Bill Roth is a Silicon Valley veteran with over 20 years in the industry. He has played numerous product marketing, product management and engineering roles at companies like BEA, Sun, Morgan Stanley, and EBay Enterprise. He was recently named one of the World's 30 Most Influential Cloud Bloggers.

IoT & Smart Cities Stories
In his general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, discussed how Dice leverages data insights and tools to help both tech professionals and recruiters better understand how skills relate to each other and which skills are in high demand using interactive visualizations and salary indicator tools to maximize earning potential. Manish Dixit is VP of Product and Engineering at Dice. As the leader of the Product, Engineering and Data Sciences team at D...
Dynatrace is an application performance management software company with products for the information technology departments and digital business owners of medium and large businesses. Building the Future of Monitoring with Artificial Intelligence. Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more busine...
Bill Schmarzo, author of "Big Data: Understanding How Data Powers Big Business" and "Big Data MBA: Driving Business Strategies with Data Science," is responsible for setting the strategy and defining the Big Data service offerings and capabilities for EMC Global Services Big Data Practice. As the CTO for the Big Data Practice, he is responsible for working with organizations to help them identify where and how to start their big data journeys. He's written several white papers, is an avid blogge...
Nicolas Fierro is CEO of MIMIR Blockchain Solutions. He is a programmer, technologist, and operations dev who has worked with Ethereum and blockchain since 2014. His knowledge in blockchain dates to when he performed dev ops services to the Ethereum Foundation as one the privileged few developers to work with the original core team in Switzerland.
René Bostic is the Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America. Enjoying her career with IBM during the modern millennial technological era, she is an expert in cloud computing, DevOps and emerging cloud technologies such as Blockchain. Her strengths and core competencies include a proven record of accomplishments in consensus building at all levels to assess, plan, and implement enterprise and cloud computing solutions. René is a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and a m...
Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settlement products to hedge funds and investment banks. After, he co-founded a revenue cycle management company where he learned about Bitcoin and eventually Ethereal. Andrew's role at ConsenSys Enterprise is a mul...
Whenever a new technology hits the high points of hype, everyone starts talking about it like it will solve all their business problems. Blockchain is one of those technologies. According to Gartner's latest report on the hype cycle of emerging technologies, blockchain has just passed the peak of their hype cycle curve. If you read the news articles about it, one would think it has taken over the technology world. No disruptive technology is without its challenges and potential impediments t...
If a machine can invent, does this mean the end of the patent system as we know it? The patent system, both in the US and Europe, allows companies to protect their inventions and helps foster innovation. However, Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be set to disrupt the patent system as we know it. This talk will examine how AI may change the patent landscape in the years to come. Furthermore, ways in which companies can best protect their AI related inventions will be examined from both a US and...
Bill Schmarzo, Tech Chair of "Big Data | Analytics" of upcoming CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO New York (November 12-13, 2018, New York City) today announced the outline and schedule of the track. "The track has been designed in experience/degree order," said Schmarzo. "So, that folks who attend the entire track can leave the conference with some of the skills necessary to get their work done when they get back to their offices. It actually ties back to some work that I'm doing at the University of San...
When talking IoT we often focus on the devices, the sensors, the hardware itself. The new smart appliances, the new smart or self-driving cars (which are amalgamations of many ‘things'). When we are looking at the world of IoT, we should take a step back, look at the big picture. What value are these devices providing. IoT is not about the devices, its about the data consumed and generated. The devices are tools, mechanisms, conduits. This paper discusses the considerations when dealing with the...