Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Reactions to Bilski

Although I discussed the Bilski decision, the latest effort by the Supreme Court of the United States to reconcile patent law with the digital world, in this blog two days after it was issued, I'd like to return to the subject now that the dust is beginning to settle, to look at what the rest of the blogosphere is saying.

Matt Lee, writing for the Free Software Foundation, is both ecstatic and wary.

On the one hand, the ruling "undoubtedly represents a breakthrough," and on the other "software patent attorneys are formulating new incantations...."

Yes, that is their job. Also, the ad hoc nature of the court's opinion rather encourages them to get to work on those new incantations.

Rob Tiller, writing at OpenSource, and with the same PoV as Lee, takes a different, more lawyer-like, tone. Tiller is content that the court "followed the traditional methodology, and addressed only" the fact pattern immediately before it, "the issue of business method patents." When it does get to software, he says, it will find that "the rationale for invalidating the Bilski patent is one that could easily be applied to void some software patents."

Erik Sherman at BNET reports that he recently spoke to one of those tricky patent attorneys Lee mentions. Sherman spoke to Scott Bain, litigation counsel of the Software and Information Industry Assn., who said: "Things are pretty similar if not the same as before Bilski. The Supreme Court decided this single case on these facts, but didn't give much guidance on how other cases will come out."

Meanwhile, the Patent Office is trying to explain the ruling to its own examiners. In essence, their instructions are to stick to the machine-or-transformation test "as a tool for determining whether the claimed invention is a process under section 101."

Steven Seidenberg, of Intellectual Property Watch, gives us a suitable final word.

"The ruling, it appears, will keep patent litigators in the United States very busy for quite some time."

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