The giant corporations that like to bully competitors with their software patents are losing control of the patent system, thanks in part to the Supreme Court (SCOTUS)
Summary: In a unanimous decision, with the court ruling 8-0 against TC Heartland, the monkey business in East Texas (beneficial to patent trolls and large businesses that leverage software patents) may have just come to an end
TECHRIGHTS was eagerly awaiting the decision on TC Heartland, not knowing when exactly this decision will be delivered. This decision won’t have a profound effect on the USPTO but rather on the courts. Say goodbye to the Eastern District of Texas as a capital of patent trolls and patent aggression. There’s no room for appeals anymore.
Is this the beginning of the end of patent trolls in the US? Well, it most certainly is a massive leap. Without access to my workstation (11,000KM away) it’s hard to know just how many patent-centric sites already cover it (probably spinning it), but here is coverage from TechDirt, whose views are similar to the EFF’s (which did a lot of campaigning regarding this case). To quote:
Another Supreme Court case on patents, and another complete smackdown of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC), the court that is supposed to be the “expert” on patent cases. This morning the ruling on the TC Heartland case came out, and it could help put an end to jurisdiction shopping for patent cases. As you’ve probably heard, for years now patent trolls and other aggressive patent litigants have been filing their cases in East Texas, as it’s become a jurisdiction that is ridiculous friendly to patent holders. The towns of Marshall and Tyler, Texas have practically built up industries around the fact that they are “patent friendly” jurisdictions. In the past few years, a second favored jurisdiction has popped up: Delaware, after a few academic studies showed that the courts there may have been even more friendly than East Texas. The TC Heartland case was about a case filed in Delaware, and raised the issue of whether or not this kind of patent forum shopping was okay. CAFC, in its usual CAFC manner, said “sure, that’s great, we love jurisdiction shopping and have since our 1990 ruling in VE Holding v. Johnson Gas. This was kind of ironic, as one of the key justifications given for setting up CAFC in the first place was to put an end to jurisdiction shopping in patent cases.
Either way, CAFC once again blessed the ability of patent holders to sue in plaintiff friendly locations, and the Supreme Court — which has spent the past decade reteaching patent law to CAFC every chance it gets — has done so again. Once again, the decision was unanimous, with the court voting 8 – 0 that trolls can’t just file over and over again in East Texas (Gorsuch, having just joined the court after the case was heard, did not take part). The opinion, written by Justice Thomas, goes through the history of jurisdiction issues related to where one can bring lawsuits, noting that historically, where a company was incorpor
It is worth reminding ourselves that these courts down in Texas were known not just for affinity towards trolls but also software patents. So this is massive! As the above notes, this case does not yet reveal anything about Gorsuch’s stance on patents.
Meanwhile, in the pro-trolls and pro-software patents spheres, there is a push to overturn another SCOTUS case (Alice), led by the likes of IBM and promoted by IAM, Watchtroll and few others.
The other day IAM did a sort of think tank on the matter, writing about what it called: “Superb panel on [Section] 101 looking at some of differences between software community and other IP owning sectors…”
As one can expect, it’s one of those stacked panels that IAM is so renowned (or notorious) for. That’s how IAM pays the bills; follow the money, they sell influence…
Here it is stating that “HP Enterprise’s Marcia Chang – we’ve had a course correction cleaning up some of mess in software patents & that’s a good thing…”
Here’s Google’s stance: “Puneet Sarna of Google – current situation on 101 is where SCOTUS wanted to go with Alice…”
“Sarna – Now patentees and accused infringers have better idea about how 101 should be applied,” IAM added.
Then came Cisco, another giant corporation: “Cisco’s Dan Lang – if you look at recent Fed Circuit decisions i believe theres a strong convergence between Europe and US…”
Where are the small businesses or actual developers? Well, IAM doesn’t really want a real debate. It’s a think tank after all…
Then came this UPC lobbying from IAM and Cisco: “cautious but hopeful that UPC will lead to a balanced system…”
Who said it would happen at all? The tense in “will” suggests inevitability.
IAM later wrote this post about “big software players” (that’s what the headline says). IAM’s loudest software patents proponent wrote it and left no room for objectivity. Here is the part about Google, which is probably the lesser culprit (Michelle Lee came from there):
“It’s a false narrative, it’s not that Silicon Valley hates the patent system,” insisted John La Barre, head of patent transactions at Google. “In my experience at Google we value strong patents, we just have an opinionated sense of what that means. It’s a question of what does a strong patent system look like, not do we think we need a strong patent system.” La Barre added that meant the search giant supported improvements in patent quality and attempts to reduce litigation.
We can expect the latest SCOTUS decisions to be spun, attacked, nitpicked etc. by the patent microcosm in the coming days. IAM will probably fight this decision for years to come (like it does Alice… even 3 years down the line). We’ll take stock of some of the spin some time next month (when I return home). █