Google and a group of companies, including some industry heavyweights just filed a legal petition in the courts to get them to stop upholding vague patents. Google lead several others, like Dell, Facebook, RedHat and Zynga in filing an amicus brief in a case that they were not even directly involved in. They filed as a "friend of the court" in a case that is very similar to what has been going on throughout the industry, with overly broad patents leading to legal disputes. They basically want to weigh in on the case because the outcome could set far-reaching precedents. Here's a quote with the details on the case,
Here's a snippet from the amicus brief filed by the "friends of the court":Here’s the issue: Electronic financial marketplace Alice Corp. filed for a patent a few years ago laying claim on a computerized way of closing financial transactions. There was back and forth, but in July it was decided that Alice Corp.’s claim was legitimately patent-eligible.
Problem for CLS — the plaintiff in the case — as well as the host of amici like Facebook and Google, is that Alice Corp.’s claims are quite broad. It asks to patent a “data processing system to enable the exchange of an obligation between parties.” So, uh, basically a computer.
As you perhaps know by now, tech companies absolutely hate sweeping claims such as Alice Corp.’s. By filing patents that use general, often vague terms to stake claim on particular methods of operation, it arms the claimant with a future-focused arsenal. In essence, there’s little keeping these patent holders from going after any companies it sees infringing upon their technology.
It's great to see tech companies are starting to team-up to fix things. The system currently encourages patent trolling, and only if enough companies cry loud enough will the government do something to repair things. It's perhaps conspicuous yet unsurprising that Apple and Microsoft did not include themselves in this 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.
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.