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June 2014: US Supreme Court reining in software patents (Alice v. CLS)!

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Electronic Frontier Foundation

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Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is an electronic civil liberties organisation in the USA.

Surprisingly, The EFF is not against software patents. They write critical press releases and spend a lot of money on the topic, but they only call for reforming quality standards, and they try to invalidate approximately one patent per year. This is important to note because the EFF is known for having good stances on many technology issues, so people might look to them for a sensible policy on software patents, but in this one area their policies are awful and should not be copied.

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[edit] Why is EFF not against software patents?

The EFF supports patent reform, fighting trolls, and eliminating "low quality" software patents, but none of these goals will solve the monopoly problems caused by the big software companies (such as audio-video patents). It's hard to see why the EFF ignores abolition. One could imagine that the EFF sees abolition as being too optimistic, so they aim for minor goals. But, after more than a decade of no success in with those minor goals, why then continue to ignore the abolition option, when even the US Supreme Court raises the idea of abolishing software patents?

[edit] Regarding Alice v. CLS Bank, 2013

Even when the US Supreme Court announced in December 2013 that it would make a decision on whether software is patentable or not (by taking the CLS Bank v. Alice), EFF showed no interest in getting software patents ruled ineligible and instead commented that:

the root of that problem, which has largely been missing from the public debate, is patent quality, specifically of software-related inventions. There can be no doubt: we have a problem with low-quality, abstract software patents in this country. We are incredibly glad to see the Supreme Court take on this important question and we look forward to weighing in.[1]

But the court isn't taking on any questions of quality. The question posed to the court is: "Whether claims to computer-implemented inventions (...) are directed to patent-eligible subject matter within the meaning of 35 U.S.C. § 101".

[edit] Defend Innovation, 2012

The announcement of their "Defend Innovation" project almost said software patents should be abolished:

Want to Abolish Software Patents? Tell Us.
(...) Many engineers, researchers, and entrepreneurs have suggested that reform is not enough and that software should not be patentable, period. We want to record these views (...)[2]

But they never advocate abolition or say that the EFF is for abolition, and the campaign consists of a petition which you have to sign if you want to add your comment, and the petition acknowledges that software patents should continue to exist in some form:

A patent covering software should be shorter: no more than five years
(...)Patent applicants should be required to provide an example of running software code
(...)[3]

[edit] Amicus briefs

[edit] Bilski

The EFF filed amicus briefs for both the 2008 in re Bilski case:

and the 2009 Bilski v. Kappos case in the Supreme Court:

[edit] Alice v. CLS Bank

(See also: Alice v. CLS Bank amicus briefs)

[edit] Patents challenged by the EFF

[edit] External links

[edit] References

  1. https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/12/its-game-time-supreme-court-address-software-patents
  2. https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2012/06/want-abolish-software-patents-tell-us
  3. https://defendinnovation.org/


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