Does the GM/Sidecar deal threaten Uber with patent infringement?
From WIRED on a story about the GM/Sidecar deal:
Maybe. Sidecar’s patent predates those filed by Uber and Lyft by several years, and it’s pretty specific. “It’s not just the general idea of sending a ride request and getting a pickup,” says Maulin Shah, managing attorney at Envision IP, a firm that focuses on patent research and litigation. Sidecar “tried to protect the infrastructure that allows that to happen.” It’s been referenced by 148 other patents, some filed by companies including Apple, Google, Microsoft, and yes, Uber. As with academic papers, having your work cited by others is an indication of validity, Shah says.
It’s far from clear that Sidecar’s patent could be used as enforcement against others, however. First off, GM could use the patent to sue a competitor only if it is the exclusive licensee of the patent—GM and Sidecar haven’t released details of their agreement. Secondly, you could argue the patent addresses a business method, not a technical solution. In May 2014, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled you can’t patent an idea. (The case, Alice Corporation vs. CLS Bank, was also a major blow to patent trolls.) “It’s a fine line between a software patent versus a true business methods patent,” Shah says, though he thinks the Sidecar patent falls more to the software side. Plus, Uber’s success is built on more than the basic ability to call a car with your phone. It has spent years working on its sophisticated algorithms to make the ride sharing experience as easy and convenient as possible.
The third potential hiccup, Shah says, is that because it’s never been challenged in court or at the US Patent Office, “we really don’t know how strong the patent is.” No one’s ever had to defend it, and no one’s tried to attack it by looking for evidence that it’s not as seminal as it may seem. Basically, it hasn’t been vetted.
The text -As with academic papers, having your work cited by others is an indication of validity, - is questionable.
As to academics, contemplate the highly cited work of Jan-Hendrik Schon. That lemmings follow does not prove validity.
The "exclusive license" business may not be relevant here, given that Sidecar is gone. Somebody controls the IP, likely GM.