Feeds

US Supremes prod software patent law

Speed dating and horse whispering

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

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. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
Zippy one-liners, broken promises: Doctor Who on the Orient Express
Series finally hits stride, but Clara's U-turn is baffling
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.