Software Patents: Bilski Case before the US Supreme Court

Jun 03, 2009

The Bilski Case is to be heard by the US Supreme Court. The case deals with the patent eligibility of marketable ideas and will, according to expert opinion, have great influence on the patenting of software.

On October 30. 2008, a Court of Appeal handed down a ruling on Bilski that since then has been much discussed. Bernard Bilski and Rand Warsaw, founders of the Weatherwise company, wanted in 1997 to protect their ideas on the processing of weather risk data.

The US Patent Board refused to recognize the patent because in their opinion, the idea did not rely on technology and was merely a mental process. Patent lawyers quickly saw the similarities with the situation involving free and open software and attorneys from the US Linux distro Red Hat presented the courts of appeal with a brief of amicus curiae.

Now, after a long legal battle involving numerous appeals, the highest court in the land will decide if patents can be awarded to, for example, financial products, business principles and Internet transactions. In the latest decision on the Bilski case, IBM took sides against the patenting of business ideas, although the company itself owns many such patents. The consultant company, Accenture and American Express both support the idea.

In his blog, law professor Dennis Crouch presents the held positions of larger organizations and companies regarding the Bilski case. His blog shows that companies like Microsoft and Dell want to see patents closely linked to technological utilization, while Yahoo would like the patents to be more broadly defined. The hearing will begin in October. A result is expected early 2010.

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