As we have previously written, long term patent terms impede the short innovation cycle and continuous iteration of software development. Innovation is harmed by overbroad software patents that cover large swaths of general activity and create uncertainty as to litigation. That’s why Mozilla submitted written comments today to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office explaining our belief that recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings on what is eligible for patent protection have resulted in improvements to patent quality.
Two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank International that patent claims that merely require generic computer implementation of abstract ideas are not patentable inventions. This was an important step towards mitigating the negative effects that overbroad and poorly written software patents have had for software developers, and the Internet as a whole. As a result, other federal courts have invalidated many other broad and abstract software patents, and the USPTO has made efforts to better incorporate subject matter eligibility in their examination procedures. Companies have also improved the quality of their patent applications and are more selective in filing applications. Our USPTO comments reaffirmed our belief that Alice has had a positive effect on the industry and should continue to be integrated into USPTO procedures and case law. We believe this would be disrupted if Congress were to prematurely intervene by altering or rolling back court rulings on patent subject matter eligibility.
Our mission and work let us see first-hand how patents affect software development and innovation on the Open Web — from the software we write and ship, to our participation and collaboration on open standards. What’s more, our non-profit roots put us in a unique position to talk openly and candidly about patents. We are glad for the opportunity to provide this direct feedback to the USPTO on this very important subject for software developers, and open source projects everywhere.