By Andrew Chung
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal judge in California on Tuesday invalidated four Hewlett-Packard Co patents for being too abstract, marking a setback in the company's patent infringement lawsuit against competitor ServiceNow Inc.
Hewlett-Packard last year accused its competitor, a Santa Clara, California-based software company, of infringing eight patents on software for managing computer networks. But the federal court in San Jose, California said four of them were too abstract to deserve legal protection.
The ruling involves one of the biggest companies to have its patents struck down in the wake of a highly influential 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Alice v. CLS Bank, which experts say has placed thousands of software-related patents in peril.
That ruling stated that when an idea is too abstract, or basic, to deserve a patent, it does not become eligible for a patent if run on a computer.
Since that high court decision last June, more than 20 lower-court rulings have used the ruling to invalidate software patents, according to a Reuters tally. By contrast, only a handful have upheld the soundness of the patents involved.
In her ruling on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Beth Freeman said she was invalidating the patents because even if Hewlett-Packard may have been first with an innovative idea, "this does not entitle HP to a patent."
Freeman's ruling left intact HP's case involving the remaining four patent.
Representatives from both companies could not immediately be reached for comment. Palo Alto-based Hewlett Packard was slightly lower in late afternoon trading, down 0.45 percent at $32.80.
The case is Hewlett-Packard Co v. ServiceNow, Inc, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, No. 14-cv-570.
(Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi, Chris Reese and Jonathan Oatis)