U.S. top court turns away Google fight over business patents

(Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear Google’s appeal of a lower court’s ruling that narrowed the scope of patents that can be challenged before a federal tribunal whose proceedings have led to the cancellation of many patents.

FILE PHOTO: A view of the U.S. Supreme Court building is seen in Washington, DC, U.S., October 13, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

The justices let stand a 2016 federal appeals court ruling against Google, a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc, which had successfully challenged at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office a patent it was accused of violating. The appeals court said the patent had been wrongly reviewed in a proceeding reserved for business-related patents.

After patent licensing firm Unwired Planet LLC sued Google in Nevada federal court in 2012 claiming infringement of a patent for restricting access to a cellphone’s location data, Google challenged the patent’s validity in a covered business method (CBM) review, a proceeding uniquely meant for checking the validity of business and finance-related patents.

The patent office reviews, conducted by its in-house Patent Trial and Appeal Board, have become a quick and cheap way for companies that are prime targets for infringement suits, such as such as Google and Apple Inc, to try to invalidate patents.

On April 24, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a constitutional challenge to a similar review proceeding known as inter partes review.

Google said Unwired Planet’s patent was eligible for a CBM review because cellphone location information can be used to sell ads. In 2015, the board agreed and canceled several parts of the patent, saying they should not have been granted legal protection.

Unwired Planet appealed. In 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the highest U.S. patent court, rejected the board’s broad view of the types of patents eligible for CBM review, prompting Google’s appeal to the Supreme Court.

Unwired Planet’s parent company is Inception Holdings, LLC, according to court papers.

Also on Monday, the Supreme Court denied a number of other appeals that had also challenged the constitutionality of the patent review process.

The Supreme Court on Monday took up another case involving Google, an internet privacy dispute concerning an increasingly common form of settlement in class action suits that funnels money to unrelated third parties and charities instead of to people affected by the alleged wrongdoing.

Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham