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Supreme Court Rules in Software Patent Case

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Supreme Court Rules in Software Patent Case

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Big news Thursday in the tech world: the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Alice Corporation Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank International  that an abstract idea isn't patentable. According to several sources, they stopped short of making a wider declaration of software patents in general, leaving the topic open for further deliberation.

The patent in question deals with a third-party service in banking that is used to mitigate the risk of one party reneging on a deal, what Politico calls a "kind of escrow." But the process isn't patentable because it is an abstract idea that just happens to be enacted on a computer. According to a Vox post,

The Supreme Court rejects the patent because "each step does no more than require a generic computer to perform generic computer functions." But many computer programmers would point out that this describes all software.

The outcome, though notable, was not surprising to anybody. Writes USA Today,

If the court upheld the patent, the problem of proliferation -- including patent lawsuits -- would continue. The number of software patents granted annually has soared from about 2,000 in 1980 to more than 40,000, accounting for nearly half of all patent lawsuits in recent years.

Although unsurprising, the decision does provide more fuel against the proliferation of baseless software patents. You can read the decision in full here.


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