Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 19th Jun 2014 23:59 UTC
Legal

The US Supreme Court has made it ever so slightly harder to patent software.

The patent claimed a method of hedging against counter-party risk, which is a fancy word for the risk that you make a deal with someone and later he doesn't uphold his end of the bargain. The Supreme Court unanimously held that you can't patent an abstract concept like this merely by stating that the hedging should be done on a computer. This kind of abstract patent is depressingly common in the software industry, and the CLS ruling will cause lower courts to take a harder look at them.

It's a small victory, but hey, I take whatever I can. Sadly, the SCOTUS also states that "many computer-implemented claims" are still eligible for patent protection, without actually explaining which claims. So, while appending "on a computer" to an obvious abstract concept does not make it patentable, the actual concept of patenting software is still very much allowed.

Even if the SCOTUS had completely abolished software patents, however, we still would have to deal with them for more than a decade - existing software patents would not magically vanish, and would still require lengthy and expensive court cases to be invalidated. Something bullies like Microsoft and Apple can afford easily, while many others cannot.

Sorry for not putting a smile on your face, but reality is reality. Sadly.

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TemporalBeing
Member since:
2007-08-22

Quite agree.

They did write a lot, and reading it it almost seemed to be very redundant. But they seemed to keep coming back to that computer implementations did not necessarily mean there was anything worth patenting - it had to also improve something, at the very least the computer.

What I am curious about is whether they would say that a program that adds a new feature (e.g a type of file transfer) to a computer system would qualify as an improvement to the general computer sufficiently to warrant a patent. If so, it's not much of a victory. If not, then we're certainly on the right track.

I think they'd lean to not as that would come down to the art of the patent writer to be able to word it correctly to sound patentable, which they also call out as something they frown upon.

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