Following the Supreme Court’s recent guidance in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International, several software patents have been invalidated by the Federal Circuit, and district courts. In Alice Corp., the court set out a two prong validity test. First, whether the subject matter is eligible for a patent; and second, if so, whether the recitation of generic computer components adds something that is not already present when the steps are considered separately? For software patent applicants, Alice Corp. now requires that the method or system 1) improve the functioning of the computer itself, and do more than instruct one to apply the abstract idea on an unspecified generic computer; or 2) effect an improvement in another technology or field.
Ed note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Dan Lear explores the role of technology in the future of the legal industry.
“A lot of people have recently jumped in [to the legal tech/startup space] but the fact is that law isn’t any different than any other industry.” Josh Kubicki – Co-founder Lex Redux
In August 2011 Mark Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape and noted venture capitalist, wrote an essay in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Why Software is Eating the World.” In it Andreessen stated that software had already revolutionized many industries: bookselling (think Amazon vs. Borders), video rental (Netflix vs. Blockbuster), and music (iTunes, Spotify, and Pandora) and warned: “Companies in every industry need to assume that a software revolution is coming.” (Emphasis added.)
Fast forward less than three years and Lex Redux may be the sound of the software revolution arriving at the legal industry’s doorstep.
- Biglaw, Boutique Law Firms, Intellectual Property, Litigators, Patents, SCOTUS, Small Law Firms, Supreme Court, Technology
The patent world can at times seem very small. The same firms, representing the same group of technology companies, pursuing the same strategies, both to maximize profits for their firms and to deliver results for their clients. Sure people move around, but the players in the larger sense are pretty static. Most patent cases are of limited importance to everyone but the parties involved as well. Sometimes a case has a broader scope, and becomes of interest to industry competitors or even investors. Every once in a while a patent case captures the public fancy, as Apple v. Samsung undoubtedly has, usually because of the nature of the parties involved or the ubiquity of the technology at issue. When that happens, the patent world can seem very big — global in scope, even.
Sometimes a little case can actually turn into a huge deal. When the Supreme Court gets involved, for example. Especially when the issue in the case has far-reaching economic implications for society at large, and not just for the litigants involved. I have seen a number of “big” patent cases during my career, but none has the disruptive potential of a case that is set for oral argument next week in the Supreme Court. From humble beginnings as a declaratory judgment action filed in an unusual forum for patent cases (District of D.C.,) the dispute between Alice Corp. and CLS Bank has grown into one of the most closely-watched and debated patent cases — ever. And deservedly so, because the viability of software patents is on the line. With major ramifications possible: for technology companies of all sizes, IP firms and lawyers, the courts, and the good old global economy as well….
I have spent this past week at our international software licensing council meeting. I have met many of our licensing experts from around the country and around the globe. Unfortunately, the meeting always takes place on one of our campuses 15 minutes from my home. It would be great if we could move the meeting to Canada or Latin America some years, but for now, I am home. And I am watching the last of the late spring snow melt off of my daughter’s snowman.
While a lot of the terms and technology discussed at the meetings soared far above my head, it has been fascinating to meet with people who are integral to the creation and drafting of our software licenses. On its face, our business sells manufactured products. Inherent in those products, however, are thousands of hard and soft components necessary to make the products run.
Technology has always been a core piece of our business. I have discussed before numerous areas where we have been at the forefront of particular technology advancement. Some technology remained salient to our core business, and some fell by the wayside, only to be successfully utilized by other companies. But meeting with folks who actually create some of the ingredients in our product stew opened my eyes to a world that for me, has thus far existed under the radar….