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Supreme Court agrees to decide on Alice v CLS

The Supreme Court has confirmed it will hear oral arguments in Alice’s dispute with CLS Bank, in a case that will rule on the extent to which software and business methods are patentable.

The US Supreme Court today agreed to hear Alice v CLS. Next year’s verdict in the landmark case will provide clarity over when, if ever, an otherwise abstract idea is patent-eligible under Section 101.

Alice Corporation in September asked the Court to review the Federal Circuit’s decision in its dispute with CLS Bank. In an en banc decision in May this year, the 10 Federal Circuit judges split 5-5 on Alice’s claims to computer system inventions. This split meant the district court summary judgment that the claims were unpatentable was upheld.

Alice is an electronic financial marketplace that is 50% owned by National Australia Bank. The Supreme Court decision will have big ramifications for the software industry.

Legal arguments are likely to start in March with a verdict to follow by the end of June.

Alice is represented by Supreme Court specialist Carter Phillips with other lawyers from Sidley Austin’s Washington, DC and Chicago office. Phillips has argued 76 cases before the Supreme Court including patent trials LA v Quanta and eBay v MercEchange.

May’s Federal Court decision followed a 2-1 panel decision to uphold Alice’s patents in July 2012, which created inconsistencies in the way that judges have interpreted Section 101. Chief Judge Rader recently admitted the 2012 ruling was “the greatest failure in my judicial career”. He added: “I think we have a responsibility to deal with what we are given and try to provide guidance in the right direction and we did not do that.”

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