2014 was a big year for technology and intellectual property law. In case you missed some of the top developments that made headlines – some of which are changing how people do business — here are some highlights.
Software Patents under Attack
By far the biggest technology law news of the year was the US Supreme Court’s decision in the Alice case, in which the Court affirmed that the claims of the software patent at issue were ineligible for patent protection because they were directed at an abstract idea.
Some expected the high court to invalidate all software patents, but it did not go that far. Nor did it provide crystal clear guidance to other courts about what types of software and business method patents would be upheld.
In the wake of Alice, a number of courts have denied patent protection for computer-enabled inventions, and the number of patents granted in the field has also declined.
Supreme Court Makes Fee-Shifting Easier
In the Octane Fitness and Highmark cases, the US Supreme Court made it easier to shift legal fees to the losing parties in patent infringement lawsuits. This is good news for those with strong cases, and bad news for those with marginal-to-frivolous cases.
Since fee shifting applies to frivolous defenses as well as frivolous claims, it may make patent infringers (and accused infringers) more likely to enter into licenses with the patent owner rather than risk being sued in situations in which they have no real defense to an infringement allegation.
Ninth Circuit Rules Browsewrap Terms May Not Be Enforceable
EU Recognizes “Right to Be Forgotten”
The European Court of Justice recognized a “right to be forgotten” and ruled that individuals can force search engines, such as Google, to remove from ‘name-based’ search results links to personal information that is “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive.”