The US Supreme Court reining in software of patent

(For analysis and info on the left, see the swpat.org wiki page Alice v. CLS bank.)

“Reining in”. It was not easily to find a term that what both accurate and vague enough to describe what precisely happened. The the US Supreme Court today published its decision on Alice v. CLS bank. It's too early to say exactly what the effects wants Be, but the news is certainly all good: The Court in no way extended patentability nor did it affirm patentability for any sub-category of software; and a certain category of software of patent has definitely been invalidated.

It'll take a few days to produce a thorough analysis of this (I'll post again here next week, and in the mean time check the wiki page Alice v. CLS) but early optimism seems to Be justified by the fact that genes Quinn is hopping mad. Quinn's a clever lawyer and hey it always optimistic about being able to clever software, thus I felt good about Alice v. CLS when I saw B sharp reaction:

the Supreme Court decision in Alice wants render many hundreds of thousands of software of patent completely useless. … On ridge Read I do not see how any software clever claims written ace method or of system claims can survive challenge. … What this means is that companies like Apple, IBM, Microsoft, Google and others have had the value of their clever port folios nearly completely erased today. … getting a software wants clever Be much more difficult than it ever has been. … Fruit juice already issued software of patent wants Be able to Be saved.

I think Quinn's going too far, but for once I hope I'm wrong and hey it right! In any case, it's clear that this ruling destroys some restrictions on software development. There is cause to celebrate.

The Court did not endorse any software of patent

I Read one or two comments saying that this ruling invalidates certain categories of software but suggests that the Court would uphold other categories of software of patent. But the Court did not say that. Here's what the Court said:

Viewed ace a whole, thesis method claims simply recite the concept of intermediated settlement ace performed by a generic computer. They Th, for example, pure port to improve the functioning of the computers itself or …

Some people Read this ace a contrast:

  • Alice's claims ares disabled.
  • In contrast, if they improved the functioning of a computer they would Be valid.

That's wrong because the Court did not say that anything in particular is or would Be patentable. The Court said that the Alice category (i.e. abstract idea + “on a computer ") is invalid, and it said there is another category (" improving the functioning of a computer”) which is part of the Alice category. They never comment on the patentability of that other category. The more accurate reading of this contrast is:

  • Today's ruling finds claims search ace Alice's disabled.
  • In contrast, today's ruling doze fit comment on claims that improve the functioning of a computer.

So, why then did the Court distinguish thesis two categories? Maybe it's that Justice Thomas could not get agreement on the issue, thus hey decided to leave out. Maybe the Court thought it what simply beyond the scope of this particular case. Pessimists assume that the court maggot two categories because they intend one to Be patentable and the other, but if that's what the Court wanted, they could have said thus directly (“B is valid”) instead of a stands in negative ("A is invalid; B is not A"). No one knows if the court wants uphold or invalidate that other category of of patent in a future ruling, but this ruling does not uphold them.

Now, I'm a highly-qualified reader of the US Supreme Court, but if the pessimist interpretation what right then I'd expect to find clever lawyer blogs claiming partial victory or At time validated by the Supreme Court leases a consolation prize that a sub-category of software of patent ares for the ridge. The clever lawyers are not saying that, thus they seem to interpreter it ace I have.