FORTUNE -- In a gesture that is most remarkable for the fact that someone thought it necessary at all, a diverse group of seven major corporations joined forces this morning to say little more than, basically: Patents are good.
The group, which calls itself the Partnership for American Innovation, hopes to stem what their members see as overblown negativity and hostility toward the patent system in the media, Congress, and the courts.
The group's charter members are Apple (AAPL), DuPont (DD), Ford (F), General Electric (GE), IBM (IBM), Microsoft (MSFT), and Pfizer (PFE), and its "senior advisor" is Dave Kappos, the former director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, who is now a partner with the law firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore. The group expects additional members to be enlisting in the days ahead, according to a spokesperson.
"We must move beyond rhetoric that 'the system is broken and trolls are bringing businesses to a complete halt,'" Kappos says in a press release, "to a discussion of calibrated improvements for what is actually the best patent system our planet has."
The group's message is astoundingly basic, and not tied to support for, or opposition to, any particular patent reform bill now pending in Congress or to any one issue now being weighed by the U.S. Supreme Court. The group's members merely endorse three broad principles:
Though the formation of the group is tied to no topical hook, it does arrive tellingly just three days after oral argument in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International, a U.S. Supreme Court case that poses the fundamental question of whether computer-implemented inventions like software are patentable at all.
In an interview with Kappos, the most specific information I could wheedle out of him was that the new group's members all apparently agree that software is certainly patentable.
"How is it cars can parallel park themselves today?" he asks, rhetorically. "Is it the sensors? Is it the cameras? No. Those existed before. It's the software."
"In the view of the partnership," he continues, "great innovation should be protected. Full stop. Software; firmware; biotech-related; physical sciences; pharmaceuticals: Great innovation is great innovation, and needs to be strongly incentivized and protected."
In contrast, in the Alice case, a number of younger Silicon Valley companies, including LinkedIn (LNKD), Netflix (NFLX), Rackspace (RAX), Trulia (TRLA), and Twitter (TWTR), urged the Court that "software patents do not serve the Constitutional purpose of the patent system." In their brief, authored by Stanford Law School intellectual property scholar Mark Lemley, the companies argued: "We create innovative software because of our desire to delight our customers and despite, not because of the patent system ... Innovation happens despite software patents, not because of them."
Today's formation of the Partnership, then, may reflect a frustration comparable to that expressed in IBM's amicus brief in the CLS Bank case, which began with this cri de coeur: "Software is not a new technology. It has been around in various forms for well over half a century. During that time it has become one of the fundamental building blocks of innovation and technological advancement, and a critical part of our nation's economy. Software is the medium for innovation in every field, from automobile manufacturing to medicine. The fact that the Court is now -- in 2014 -- actively considering such a basic question as whether computer-implemented inventions such as software are even eligible for patent protection is deeply troubling." (IBM's attorneys were led by Paul Clement of the Bancroft law firm.)
Appeals court ends grudge match with an ambiguous ruling.
FORTUNE -- Yesterday afternoon a federal appeals court issued a split-the-baby ruling ending the colorful grudge match between Apple (AAPL) and a federal district judge over the powers of an antitrust monitor she had appointed to oversee the company's conduct.
The ambiguous ruling gave each side plausible grounds to claim victory -- or at least to save face -- with the court permitting the monitor to MORERoger Parloff, Senior Editor (Legal Affairs) - Feb 11, 2014 10:28 AM ET
Next round in grudge match over price-fixing decision
FORTUNE -- On Tuesday morning the federal appeals court in New York will hear arguments on whether to halt a court-appointed monitor from overseeing Apple until the company's full appeal can be heard from a judge's ruling last July, finding that its 2010 launch of its iBook store violated the antitrust laws.
Apple (AAPL) argues that the monitorship -- being carried out by Michael MORERoger Parloff, Senior Editor (Legal Affairs) - Feb 3, 2014 2:22 PM ET
Apple has filed papers in Manhattan federal court claiming its court-appointed monitor is overstepping his bounds and interfering with the company's business.
FORTUNE -- Late on Thursday, Apple (AAPL) filed papers in federal court in Manhattan seeking to halt a court-appointed antitrust monitor, Michael Bromwich, from engaging in any further oversight over the company, pending the outcome of its appeal of the e-books antitrust judgment entered against it last July.
Its papers MORERoger Parloff, Senior Editor (Legal Affairs) - Dec 14, 2013 6:03 PM ET
Apple is taking aim not just at the court-ordered monitor in the e-books antitrust case, but also at U.S. District Judge Denise Cote herself.
FORTUNE -- On Thanksgiving eve, Apple filed court papers launching a searing attack on the court-ordered monitor who had been appointed barely a month earlier to oversee its compliance with an antitrust decree relating to its sale of e-books.
Apple accused the monitor, Michael Bromwich, a partner at MORERoger Parloff, Senior Editor (Legal Affairs) - Dec 2, 2013 3:22 PM ET
According to former Treasury Secretary -- and former Goldman Sachs CEO -- Hank Paulson, we're in a golden age when it comes to our chief executives.
By Geoff Colvin, senior editor-at-large
FORTUNE -- Talking with Hank Paulson not long ago, I was stopped short by an observation he made: "I've been working with CEOs since the 1970s, and CEOs today are so much better than they used to be."
He's certainly in MORENov 4, 2013 12:56 PM ET
J.C. Penney ousted its embattled CEO Ron Johnson and replaced him with someone investors are all too familiar with: former JCP CEO Myron Ullman.
By Jennifer Reingold, senior editor
FORTUNE -- J.C. Penney's year of living dangerously is over. Once known for its middle-America, mainstream clothes and furnishings, the $13 billion retailer became a virtual petri dish for one of the fastest, most radical reorganizations the business world has ever seen.
Now, the MOREApr 8, 2013 6:18 PM ET
Our Weekly Read column features Fortune staffers' and contributors' takes on recently published books about the business world and beyond. We've invited the entire Fortune family -- from our writers and editors to our photo editors and designers -- to weigh in on books of their choosing based on their individual tastes or curiosities. In this installment, contributor Richard McGill Murphy reviews Robert Levine's Free Ride: How Digital Parasites Are MORENov 4, 2011 5:00 AM ET
This month's Fortune.com poll comes on the news of Steve Jobs' departure from Apple's CEO spot. Everyone is talking about the company's future, but we wonder what you think about what Apple (AAPL) has already done: Which is its most iconic product from the Steve Jobs era? It may be the iPhone you see in so many hands, or maybe it's the iTunes library you open up every time you MOREAug 30, 2011 12:49 PM ET
The head of Apple's retail strategy, Ron Johnson, is putting skin in the game at his new position as CEO of J.C. Penney.
By Jennifer Reingold, senior editor
FORTUNE -- He could have had any job he wanted. Or he could have stayed at Apple, where he was sitting on $50 million of restricted stock -- and, should the company continue its record of innovation, untold millions more in the future.
But instead, MOREJun 15, 2011 5:00 AM ET
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