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Google and others files brief asking court not to allow patents on abstract ideas

Patents are supposed to ensure protection of intellectual property as well as promote innovation. However, the recent patent wars between companies is taking a wrong turn as far as Google, Facebook, and other companies are concerned. The group believes that the current practice in securing patents is hobbling innovation instead of promoting them.

Google, Zynga, Facebook, and other 5 companies have decided to file an amicus brief with the United States State Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on Friday to ask the court deny patents related to a lawsuit being fought by two financial institutions. The legal battle between CLS Bank and Alice Corp centers around the infringement of four patents that cover a computerized method of allowing a third party hold escrowed funds in behalf of two other parties.

The amicus brief was signed by Homeaway, Dell, Intuit, Red Hat, and Rackspace. It argues that a party cannot get a patent for combining phrases like “over the Internet” or “on a computer” with an abstract idea. The brief says that this issue was “critically important in the high-tech context” as it limits innovation:

“Many computer-related patent claims just describe an abstract idea at a high level of generality and say to perform it on a computer or over the Internet. Such barebones claims grant exclusive rights over the abstract idea itself, with no limit on how the idea is implemented. Granting patent protection for such claims would impair, not promote, innovation by conferring exclusive rights on those who have not meaningfully innovated, and thereby penalizing those that do later innovate by blocking or taxing their applications of the abstract idea.”

The group claims that abstract patents are a “plague in the high-tech sector”. The brief closed its argument by saying: “It is easy to think of abstract ideas about what a computer or website should do, but the difficult, valuable, and often groundbreaking part of online innovation comes next: designing, analyzing, building, and deploying the interface, software, and hardware to implement that idea in a way that is useful in daily life. Simply put, ideas are much easier to come by than working implementations.

The group decided to come up with the brief following a rash of patent lawsuits in the tech sector based on patents designed to extract licensing fees from other companies instead of making products based on the patents themselves. A recent study published earlier this year showed that patent infringement lawsuits are increasing, commanding resources from companies that had reached $29 billion last year.

A judge that presided over  controversial and high-profile cases said that “patent protection is on the whole excessive and that major reforms are necessary.” there is a steadily growing number of patent lawsuits in pharmaceutical and software industries in the recent years.

source: cnet