Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Patent trolls and trading algorithms

US patent law may have turned away from a cliff in recent months.

Bernard L. Bilski had tried to patent an "energy risk-management method." Basically, he was seeking to claim rights to the idea of commodity hedging, as a "method of managing the consumption risk costs of a commodity [such as heating oil] sold by a commodity provider at a fixed price."

This was not a frivolous claim, either. There was some language in the precedents that seemed to encourage it. The more's the pity.

Fortunately, the US Court of Appeals has upheld the Patent Office in rejecting Bilski's claims.

The court said that a business process is eligible for a patent if and only if it is (a) tied to a particular machine or apparatus, or (b) involves the transformation of particular article into a different state or thing.

Anyone have any illuminating comments on business process patents, trading algorithms, etc. in this context? I'm all ears.

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