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Bilski Patent Case Appealed To Supreme Court 175

Posted by kdawson
from the settling-it-once-and-for-all dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The landmark ruling of a few months ago that limited patents to inventions which include a machine or which transform physical matter has been appealed up to the Supreme Court. 'On the one side of this controversy... are those... who argue that patents must be available to encourage innovation in devising new ways to conduct business in the global information-based economy, including encouragement for new ways of digitizing business methods. On the other side are consumer advocacy groups and free-market devotees who worry that patent monopolies could tie up methods of creative thought processes, including teaching, judging, creative writing, making medical judgments, or picking juries (some current, real examples of claims).' The Bilski decision has already had an impact on potential software and biotech patents, in addition to the obvious limitations on business method patents. The petition (PDF) argues that the 'machine-or-transformation' test conflicts with the broad language of the patent statute and with congressional intent. It's entirely within the Supreme Court's discretion to take the case or not, but for now it looks like the issue is far from decided."
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Bilski Patent Case Appealed To Supreme Court

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  • Bilski (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Elektroschock (659467) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @02:35PM (#26714193)

    Software patents are useless. [stopsoftwarepatents.org] Period.

    The decision is very risky as the quality of the decision of the Circuit Court was very high.

    They will make Bilski fail again.

  • Oh Boy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @02:36PM (#26714203) Homepage Journal
    So, the thing we really want to come out of this is a further limitation of software and business method patenting than the lower court case arrived at. But this is going to be a really big fight, with deep pockets on both sides. And it's going to be years before there's an outcome, if they take it.

    If the Supreme Court doesn't accept it, I suppose we have a chance to bring yet another case and try for more limitation of software patenting.

    What really bothers me is that our only viable path to do this right now is the courts. We've not been able to establish a legislative campaign.

  • PLEASE uphold it! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @02:36PM (#26714209) Homepage Journal

    There are no ways in which software patents can help anyone but patent lawyers. Since American patents are only binding in America, they put domestic companies at a competitive disadvantage with the rest of the world. Anyone can open an American office and start filing patents to be used against us, but good luck to an American company that wants to file patents in China to protect their claims.

  • by RogueWarrior65 (678876) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @02:43PM (#26714335)

    IMHO, being able to patent parts of the human genome is stupid. You didn't INVENT anything. Now if you designed a replacement gene that does something new, sure you can have a patent on it. But that would have to exclude cures for things. Say you figured out the gene for color-blindness. Chances are you figured it out or at least verified it against the normal gene. No patent for you. But if you invented a gene that gave a person really great night vision, yeah I'd give you a patent for that.

  • by Theaetetus (590071) <theaetetus.slashdot@nospam.gmail.com> on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @02:46PM (#26714369) Homepage Journal

    Anyone can open an American office and start filing patents to be used against us, but good luck to an American company that wants to file patents in China to protect their claims.

    Yeah, if only there were some sort of Cooperative Treaty about Patents that would grant substantively similar rights in all the signing countries. They should probably hold a Convention in Paris to discuss it, and maybe set up some sort of Bureau in Switzerland to be an International registry.

  • Re:Wat.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @02:59PM (#26714635) Homepage Journal

    It is said that the lonely eagle flies to the mountain peaks while the lowly ant crawls the ground, but cannot the soul of the ant soar as high as the eagle?

  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @03:05PM (#26714759)

    The Supreme Court has been generally narrowing the scope of patent law over the past few years. My guess is that they won't take the case, and if they do the odds are that they will uphold Bilski, or possibly narrow the scope of patentable material even further.

  • by ivan256 (17499) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @03:10PM (#26714827)

    If you need a patent for your business method in order for it to be profitable, it's a failed process. The only practical used for business process patents is patent trolling.

  • Re:Bilski (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CubanCorona (759226) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @03:10PM (#26714835)
    People seldom consider the implications of abolishing software patents.

    Sure, there are a lot of good arguments against granting artificial monopolies on computer software--and many of them ARE good arguments. However, categorically denying patent protection to software creates some logical difficulties.

    Most computer aficionados are familiar with the idea that software and hardware are logically equivalent. We CAN build specialized hardware to do what we would have our software do.

    It would seem a bit anomalous, therefore, to allow a patent on specialized hardware that embodies precisely the same inventive character as its patent ineligible software counterpart.

    So, in my opinion, the real issue we are seeking to resolve here is more subtle and obscure than we are admitting. Certainly, affording computer software a unique status as patent ineligible subject matter is not the most complete solution.

    I think that's what the court was getting at in Bilski. They were searching for some kind of logical test rather than an unexplainable, static, and inflexible prohibition on a certain class of invention.

    I'm not saying the court was right--I'm trying to shed a little more light on the playing field.
  • by Timothy Brownawell (627747) <tbrownaw@prjek.net> on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @03:11PM (#26714847) Homepage Journal

    So if I invent a whole new replacement for the transistor that can reduce the scale in the same way the original transistor improved on the vacuum tube, but I have no capacity to fabricate it in any useful way, I should derive no benefit?

    Ideas are cheap, it's all the details that have to be worked out during implementation that are the important part (plus the other important part, working out all the extra details that make mass production feasible).

  • by LandDolphin (1202876) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @03:15PM (#26714937)
    5. Rest of the world drops software patents too.
  • Re:Riiiigghht (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@gmail.cFREEBSDom minus bsd> on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @03:32PM (#26715263) Homepage Journal

    Who said anything about patents being bad? The words "information" and "business process" do not jive with what the patent system was intended to be used for. Nor do they happen to cost millions or billions in R&D.

    The messed up part about all of this is that it's all caused by an early misinterpretation of technology by courts. There was a case that came up where a patent was filed for a device (a rubberizer, IIRC?) that used computer control to accomplish its innovative task. The judge correctly assessed that the invention as a whole was innovative and granted patent protection.

    Unfortunately, the court cases that followed cited that case as precedent for software patents. The judges didn't understand the difference and started granting exceptions carte blanche. Thus we ended up in the screwed up system we have now with no oversight over what is a valid patent and what is not.

    Even more messed up is that patent law is okay. It says that patents should be non-obvious, it says that they should have no prior art, etc., etc., etc. Yet technology patents regularly get shoved through the system without any of these checks or balances applied.

    The bozos who are defending this messed up violation of the law as legit are nothing more than charlatans who couldn't make an honest living if they tried. Last I checked, many of them even helped tank the world economy in recent news.

  • by Dragonslicer (991472) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @04:28PM (#26716285)

    So if I invent a whole new replacement for the transistor that can reduce the scale in the same way the original transistor improved on the vacuum tube, but I have no capacity to fabricate it in any useful way, I should derive no benefit? Bit harsh, don't you think?

    I'm pretty sure you can patent it, even if you don't have the manufacturing center to produce it. Your patent would have to include exact instructions for someone that does have the manufacturing center, though. Of course, without any kind of production ability, I'd be surprised if you'd be able to figure out all of the details in the first place.

    What you can't patent is "a transistor that is one tenth the size of normal transistors" without giving any details about how you would create such a device.

  • Re:Bilski (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rtfa-troll (1340807) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @06:49PM (#26718377)

    It would seem a bit anomalous, therefore, to allow a patent on specialized hardware that embodies precisely the same inventive character as its patent ineligible software counterpart.

    Actually, from my point of view not at all. I think this may be exactly where the line should be drawn. There are very clear differences between a hardware embodiment and a software one. The most important one is that a software one is much more end user modifiable. The hardware is a fixed product which can't be modified. This means that the software system should be seen as a form of communication and be protected as free speech; at least in cases where the source code is available. Hardware should be seen as a product. There is no more anomaly in this than that it is legal to stand outside someone's land and protest rudely against them whilst it is illegal to throw eggs at them. Both may be annoying for the person, but only the second one involves a physical process / attack on them.

  • by cdrguru (88047) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @07:51PM (#26719053) Homepage

    The problem with Vonage - and all current VOIP implementations - is they fail the basic requirements that the wired telecom providers are required to support. Things like 48 hours without electric power. 911 that actually works with emergency services. And literally a hundred other requirements, all things that are really good for people that need basic voice connectivity.

    Sure, VOIP implementations are cheap. But in comparison to what? I can use Yahoo Messenger for free. How is Vonage cheaper than that? Neither Vonage or Yahoo are paying for the infrastructure to connect me to the network. The $30-a-month POTS service is doing exactly that. What would Vonage charge if they had to pay to supply their customers with network connectivity?

    Sorry, but this has a lot more to do with tariffs and regulations than patents. Sadly, it takes some serious wakeup calls before people understand the difference between the POTS network in the US and "phone service" supplied by the likes of Vonage. A 24 hour power outage might be a good start. Having a 2 year old dial 911 and not be able to recite the address might be another.

Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.

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