While I was away presenting on software patents in Brazil an important decision took place last week. Aerotel v Telco is one of the most important cases in this area, and the patent that originated it has now been repealed because of obviousness. Aerotel is an Israeli patent troll that provides no services and does nothing but engage in patent infringement suits all over the world defending their patent. The patent protects a method of making pre-paid telephone calls.
Fysh QC delivered the reasoning, and it makes for interesting reading (for those inclined to be interested in software patent litigation that is). Fysh QC states that:
“Even if it is proper to pose the first question in this context, the answer must I think, be this: the general idea of either post or pre-payment charging for telephone calls would unhesitatingly have been present in the mind of a skilled worker at the priority date. These were the alternatives. A telephone company must of course be paid and both methods of payment were not just well known but were the norm. […] Thus, assuming it to be a relevant consideration, the idea of requiring payment in advance for telephone calls is in my judgement, completely obvious.”
Hurray! One of the points that I make when talking about software patents is that there may be scope for some protection of computer implemented inventions, but that the implementation has been atrocious. In my opinion, most software patents fail in obviousness, prior art and disclosure. The problem is that patent litigation is expensive, and defending yourself even against a bad patent may cost a fortune.