A Big Week for Innovation

Posted by Dana Rao, Vice President of Intellectual Property and Litigation

There aren’t many policy issues that unite technology companies and travel agents, grocery stores, and real estate professionals. Patents policy are one of those issues. This week companies big and small, across almost every sector of our economy, will train their eyes on Washington to see what happens at the Supreme Court and across the street at the U.S. Capitol. They’ll do so buoyed by the hopes that our judicial and legislative branches can bring balance to our patent laws. As both a patent holder and a patent defendant, we’re hoping for two things: a reaffirmance by the Supreme Court that software is patentable and action by the Senate to end the abusive practices of patent trolls.

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court begins oral arguments in the case of Alice Corporation vs CLS Bank International. At the heart of the case is whether software is patentable. The eventual ruling will have broad ramifications on legitimate innovation. As I outlined in a blog earlier this month, an abstract idea combined with implementation details is patentable, whether the invention is made in software or any other medium for invention. That idea is in line with previous Court rulings and can help us separate the “good” software patents from the “bad”. Refocusing our patentable subject matter test on what matters, whether an idea will preclude every way of implementing a concept, instead of an ephemeral and ever-changing assessment on whether the latest technology is “fit for patenting”, will allow us to continue to grow our innovation economy.

Soon, the Senate Judiciary Committee will mark up a bipartisan bill introduced by Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy and Senator Mike Lee. I testified before the Committee late last year and noted that the Leahy/Lee bill was an important first step in moving reform forward and reducing the $29 billion impact patent trolls have on the innovation economy. I’m happy to see Senator Leahy pushing forward with these critical reform efforts.

As the Committee considers patent reform legislation, Adobe encourages them to adopt other critical reform efforts, including Senator Cornyn and Grassley’s legislation which strengthens patent law’s fee shifting standard, reforms pleading requirements, and streamlines discovery in patent cases. In addition, Adobe supports Senator Hatch’s legislation providing discretionary bonding, which will ensure awarded fees are actually paid by the patent troll or their investors. When combined, this legislative package can protect true innovation—abstract ideas coupled with specific implementation details—while significantly reducing frivolous claims brought by patent trolls.

Innovators and industries from across America are watching, anxious to see the nation’s highest court and greatest legislative body act on an issue of critical importance to our economic vitality. Let’s keep patents strong, but let’s also end the abusive practices that are undermining businesses and the integrity of our patent system.