A group of leading tech companies, including Facebook, Google, Zynga and LinkedIn, as well as industry groups including the Electronic Frontiers Foundation, have filed an amicus brief against overly broad patents.
According to AllThingsD, in a case before the US Court of Appeals for the Federal circuit, a company called Alice Corp is attempting to enforce a patent covering “data processing system to enable the exchange of an obligation between parties” against a financial services firm called CLS.
Because of the broad language in the patent – “a data processing system” – Alice Corp is in effect claiming a patent on the use of any computer system to exchange financial contracts, including shares and derivatives.
Despite not being a party to the transaction, the tech companies have filed the amicus brief on the grounds that it is overly broad, and that the courts upholding Alice Corp’s patent claim would have an adverse impact on the tech industry:
“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,” the amicus brief states.
“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 case comes against the backdrop of a series of intensifying patent battles in the tech industry, with key players including Apple, Samsung, Google and Microsoft.