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.
I’m not sure that software patents should be done away with ENTIRELY, but just the overly broad ones. In other words, if you can sit down and accidentally violate somebody else’s patent, it’s probably too broad.
But if somebody, for example, comes up with a compression algorithm that allows streaming of 4k video on a 3mbps connection, I do think they should be able to patent that. Not necessarily the idea, but the specific implementation. In other words, if I spend hundreds of hours, and thousands of dollars to develop such a thing, and then you come along, reverse engineer the protocol, and give it away for free, that ain’t right. I wanna get paid, dammit
I know there are some people who feel like it is their god given right to have the fruits of somebody else’s hard labor for nothing, but I’m not one of those people. On the other hand, when you’ve got companies that patent the concept of ‘1 click checkout’, something is definitely wrong.
Edited 2014-06-20 04:30 UTC