Feeds

US Supremes prod software patent law

Speed dating and horse whispering

New hybrid storage solutions

Of horses and speed-dating

In general, the Justices took a dim view of the arguments for Bilski's appeal - but so much so that they appeared to be of the opinion that this case is not appropriate for a thoroughgoing rewrite of the central test for patent eligibility. Their comments focused, in their implied opinion, that the Bilski patent application was merely for an idea.

Justice Sotomayor, for example, asked: "If we don't limit [patents] to inventions or to technology [or] to the sciences, to the useful arts, then why not patent the method of speed dating?"

Justice Breyer joined in the fun, suggesting, "You know, I have a great, wonderful, really original method of teaching antitrust law, and it kept 80 percent of the students awake... And I could probably have reduced it to a set of steps and other teachers could have followed it. That you are going to say is patentable, too?"

The ever-irascible Justice Scalia was perhaps the most scathing of the appeal argument in this exchange with J. Michael Jakes, who argued for Bilski:

Scalia: You know, you mention that there are all these - these new areas that didn't exist in the past because of modern business and what-not, but there are also areas that existed in the past that don't exist today. Let's take training horses. Don't you think that - that some people, horse whisperers or others, had some, you know, some insights into the best way to train horses? And that should have been patentable on your theory.

Jakes: They might have, yes.

Scalia: Well, why didn't anybody patent those things?

Jakes: I think our economy was based on industrial process.

Scalia: It was based on horses, for Pete's sake.

Justice Ginsberg approved of the clarity of the US Court of Appeals ruling, citing the concurring opinion of one of the deciding judges: "If you read Judge Mayer's opinion, it has a simplicity to it. It says, if it's technology, then it's within the realm of patent, and if it's not technology, it isn't."

Justices Kennedy, Alito, Roberts, and Stevens also chimed in with probing queries and commentary (Roberts to Jakes: "You think you can patent an alphabet because it is a process of forming words?"), but Justice Thomas, as is his custom, asked not a question and said not a word.

In his thoroughgoing analysis of Monday's arguments, Kevin Noonan of Patent Docs comes to the following conclusion - one that, if true, should calm the fears of software and medical technology vendors worried that Bilski v. Kappos will overturn the patent protections they believe necessary to support innovation and, not incidentally, to keep their companies afloat:

"It appears evident that the Court does not believe that Bilski's claims are patentable, but that this case is not the case to make any broad pronouncements on subject matter eligibility for computer software or diagnostic methods claims."

But that, of course, is just one man's opinion - and one, by the way, with which this reporter agrees.

But one man's opinion plus the viewpoint of one Reg reporter pales in significance compared to the verdict to be handed down next June by seven men and two women wearing black robes and sitting in judgment on the fate of the US patent process. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
Show us your Five-Eyes SECRETS says Privacy International
Refusal to disclose GCHQ canteen menus and prices triggers Euro Human Rights Court action
Drag queens: Oh, don't be so bitchy, Facebook! Let us use our stage names
Handbags at dawn over free content ad network's ID policy
Heavy VPN users are probably pirates, says BBC
And ISPs should nab 'em on our behalf
Italy's High Court orders HP to refund punter for putting Windows on PC
Top beaks slam bundled OS as 'commercial policy of forced distribution'
Former Bitcoin Foundation chair pleads guilty to money-laundering charge
Charlie Shrem plea deal could still get him five YEARS in chokey
NORKS ban Wi-Fi and satellite internet at embassies
Crackdown on tardy diplomatic sysadmins providing accidental unfiltered internet access
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.