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Dangerous Patent Law Ruling Threatens Free and Open Source Software


EFF Asks Supreme Court to Protect Open Source Innovation

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has asked the United States Supreme Court to overturn a dangerous patent law ruling that could pose a serious threat to Free and Open Source Software projects.

In a recent decision, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed its own “suggestion test” as the main method for determining when a patent should be found obvious over knowledge in the public domain. Under this test, even the most obvious incremental advances and add-ons can be patented unless the Patent Office or a defendant in court produces a document that shows someone else suggested it prior to the patent being filed.

“The Federal Circuit’s suggestion test forces litigants to search through reams of technical papers for a document in which someone, somewhere, bothers to state the obvious,” said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry, who co-authored the amicus brief. “This is inefficient and burdensome, and contrary to the principles, policies, and standards the Supreme Court has upheld.”

In its amicus brief filed Tuesday, EFF shows how this “suggestion test” has led to a massive surge in bogus patenting, especially in software. These bad patents then become weapons against legitimate innovators -- especially those working on Free and Open Source Software projects.

“Free and Open Source Software projects have become an integral part of the software industry and our nation’s economy,” said EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz, a co-author of the brief. “They often lack the resources or formal documentation to fight against bogus patents under the suggestion test, so it is principally important that the Supreme Court set the appropriate standard to prevent the approval of bogus patents.”

The case, KSR International Co. v. Teleflex, Inc., and Technology Holding Co., is scheduled for oral argument in front the Supreme Court this fall.

For the full amicus brief:


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