Patent litigation is all over the place these days, and regardless of who's in the right or wrong in any specific case, it's eating up a whole bunch of resources. That's why Facebook, Google, and a number of other companies have rallied together with an amicus brief kindly asking the US State Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to quit honouring crazy-vague patents.
The brief — which also has signatures from Zynga, Intuit, Dell, Red Hat, Homeaway and Rackspace — offers some unsolicited advice to the court. The brief specifically relates to a case between CLS Bank and Alice Corp which involves some of said patents, but it also makes some sweeping references to vague patents in general. Phrases like "over the internet" or "on a computer", the companies argue, shouldn't be enough to turn an otherwise obvious idea into a patenable one.
Here's some langauge from the brief:
This issue is critically important in the high-tech context. 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 penalising those that do later innovate by blocking or taxing their applications of the abstract idea.
Will this plea have any effect? Who's to say, but the more involved companies speak out on the topic, the more absurd it will seem to ignore their opinions, especially in the absence of any big names arguing for super vague computer-related patents.