Court Could Impact Business Software Patents

Megan Lynch @MLynchOnAir

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOX) – Inside many businesses in the St. Louis region are proprietary computer software systems.  The patents protecting that software could be in jeopardy.

“There’s a potential for change.  Right now the hurdle to clear to get into the realm of patentable subject matter is set fairly low, but that is the issue that the Court of Appeals is going to be revisiting.  They want to know whether they should raise that bar and make it more difficult to obtain a computer-related software patent,” explains Walter Kawula, Partner in the Intellectual Property Department of law firm Husch Blackwell.

A case involving banking software is at the center of this case, yet Kawula says the courts are facing other, similar, issues.  The current standards allow patents unless it’s “manifestly evident” something is an “abstract idea”.

Kawula says while the system has worked well in other areas, for example mechanics or pharmaceuticals, it’s been more complicated to apply to computer coding, “the step of taking those rules and that system of protecting inventions into the information age and into the inventions where the real effort in intellectual property goes into developing the software has been a difficult transition for the system.”

He’s says an eventual ruling could not only impact new patents.  “This case could affect existing patents.  It could affect the validity of patents that were granted years and years ago.”

Kawula says it also makes for a lot of uncertainty for anyone trying to get a computer-related software patent while the court is considering the issue.  He says the challenge will be to draft patents narrowly enough that they won’t be considered abstract, but not so narrowly a competitor can get around it.

CLS Bank International v. Alice Corporation

Click here for a link to more information on the case from Walter Kawula and Husch Blackwell

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