Brief of Public Knowledge: Alice Corporation Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank International and CLS Services Ltd.
US Supreme Court Brief of Public Knowledge No. 13-298 (U.S. 2014)
40 Pages Posted: 8 Mar 2014 Last revised: 15 Mar 2014
Date Written: March 14, 2014
Abstract ideas are not eligible for patenting because, as the Supreme Court has steadfastly maintained, certain fundamental subject matter must be fixed in the public domain, so that patents may serve their constitutional mandate to “promote the Progress of Science and the useful Arts.” Being the basic tools of innovation, abstract ideas must remain available to the public; to do otherwise would impede innovation more than promote it.
This case tests how far a patent may encroach on that valuable domain reserved to innovators, creators, and the public. Petitioner holds patents to computer technology. The patent claims at issue are lengthy and detailed, some over two hundred words long. But those claims actually cover very simple ideas; the verbose language is a mere facade masking basic concepts.
To demonstrate this, amici have implemented one of those 200-word claims — in just 7 lines of computer code.
This computer program shows that the patent claims are directed to nothing more than an abstract idea implemented on a general-purpose computer, which should not be patent-eligible. To hold otherwise would contravene the Supreme Court’s precedent and undermine the rationale for unpatentability of abstract ideas. Such “abstract-idea-plus-computer” patents would be effective monopolies on the basic tools of innovation, a result that the Supreme Court has adamantly rejected.
To prevent further errors of this sort, amici identify three points of clarification on the law of subject matter eligibility, and urged the Supreme Court to enunciate these specific points. Doing so not only will correct the judgment below and guide the lower courts, but also will ensure that those valuable basic tools of innovation remain available to all.
* This brief was prepared with the help of University of Southern California Intellectual and Technology Law Clinic interns Michelle Lee (J.D. Candidate, 2015) and Mikhail Brandon (J.D. Candidate, 2014) under the supervision of Professor Jack Lerner.
Keywords: patents, subject matter eligibility, patentable subject matter
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