A group consisting of Google, Dell, Facebook, Homeaway, Intuit, Rackspace, Red Hat and Zynga have filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals suggesting that courts stop honoring and upholding patents with purposely vague wording.
The brief covers all the legal angles, but the layman's version is that phrases like "on a mobile device" or "over the Internet" are just too broad and meaningless. These types of patents should not be granted, and existing patents using such broad terms should not be upheld. Direct from the brief:
Many computer-related patent claims just describe an abstract idea at a high level of generality and say to perform it on a computer or over the Internet. Such barebones claims grant exclusive rights over the abstract idea itself, with no limit on how the idea is implemented. Granting patent protection for such claims would impair, not promote, innovation by conferring exclusive rights on those who have not meaningfully innovated, and thereby penalizing those that do later innovate by blocking or taxing their applications of the abstract idea.
Notably absent from the group putting this forward are Microsoft and Apple, companies that have recently tried to enforce overly-broad patents against Android vendors with mixed success. Both companies have also had their share of run-ins with questionable patents, so their participation is something I would have thought was likely.
Nobody knows how effective this will be, but it's great to see it happening. If more companies are vocal about the situation, the government will have to respond in some manner. Anything to get rid of the status quo is a move forward in my book.
Source: All Things D