What if you could develop software without risking a patent infringement lawsuit? What if open source innovation was unencumbered by lurking patent trolls? What if there were no software patents? The United States Supreme Court will be reviewing the Bilski case in the coming weeks. The Courts decision in this case could help move some of these what ifs closer to reality.
The Bilski case involves the standard for patenting a process. The Federal Circuit issued its decision in the case about a year ago, and now its up for Supreme Court review. The high courts decision on patentable subject matter is of huge importance to the future of software development, including open source. The Courts ruling on Bilski could clarify the law and lessen the risks that software innovation will be hindered by patents.
The Federal Circuits decision in Bilski recognized that abstract ideas are not patentable, and a new test for patentability was substituted. The Federal Circuit set forth a clear test to determine if a process is patentable in stating that it must be either tied to a particular machine or apparatus or must transform a particular article into a different state or thing.