By Ed Flores
High profile patent cases involving well-known brands and huge financial stakes, like Apple v. Samsung and Samsung v. Ericsson, grab virtually all of the media attention out there. In a sense, they’re the media darlings of patent litigation — easy targets with lots to report on.
There is one case, however, that stands to make a huge impact on the future of intellectual property, but doesn’t come with the billion-dollar price tag.
Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank will be heard by the Supreme Court some time in 2014, and has been dragged through every conceivable iteration of the judicial process. Joe Mullin of Ars Technica says “There’s no telling how Alice v. CLS will turn out, but it will probably be the technology court battle of the year.”
Deconstructing the Alice v. CLS Case
Alice Corp., an Australian company, holds patents for electronic methods, systems and computer programs used in its Alice Market product. According to their website, Alice licenses Alice Market to parties who use it to “contract electronically and anonymously with each other in a real time and secure environment for the purposes of: hedging known risks, investing in known risks for profit, lending/borrowing from one another, and exchanging value between one another.”
Alice Corp. obtained four specific patents from the USTPO between 1999 and 2010. In 2002, they approached CLS Bank International, a subsidiary of CLS Group Holdings AG based in New York, to license Alice’s patents. CLS refused the offer.
In 2007, CLS Bank in turn sued Alice in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. They wanted a declaratory judgment to render Alice’s patent claims invalid based on the fact that the patents covered an abstract idea and were therefore not patentable.
The District Court sided with CLS Bank in 2011, and stated that a method “directed […]