patent_troll_thumb.jpgWell, that may be overstating the … ahem … case a little, but not by much. One of the most notorious instances of patent trolling, the claim by a company called Ultramercial that it has a valid patent for advertising on the internet, has finally been knocked (or gaveled) on the head by the U.S. Supreme Court, overcoming sustained resistance from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the top patent court, which took the case to the Supreme Court twice, only to be twice directed to take it back

As the Electronic Frontier Foundation, itself involved in the case via four amicus briefs, put it, “on its third try, the Federal Circuit finally held the patent invalid. This is a big victory for common sense and innovation. Tying an elementary business practice (like showing an ad before a video) to the Internet doesn’t deserve patent protection.”

The EFF, which has posted the entire ruling online, continues, “this case joins other recent decisions applying Alice v. CLS Bank to invalidate abstract software patents. The patents thrown out so far are a rogue’s gallery of absurdly broad software patents (like bingo on a computer or upselling on a computer). Contrary to the hyperbolic warnings from some fans of software patents, the death of abstract patents has not led to the death of innovation. While Alice v. CLS Bank does not solve all problems with the patent system, it at least rids the system of many of the silliest software patents.”

And as to why the Court of Appeals held out for so long against common sense and innovation, it may be significant that the final ruling refers to the retirement of Randall R. Rader, former head justice of that court, who left office amid signs of undue collusion with patent lawyers. If this is typical of the type of person and practice that the U.S. patents system relies on to judge intellectual property and patent law, then no wonder common sense has had such a hard time …


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