Mathmatical algorithms are unpatentable. Software is a collection of algorithms expressed in machine code. Under current law, only software that involves a specific machine or physical result. The U.S. Supreme Court accepted cert in a case, Alice Corporation Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank International (docket 13-298), involving financial software to mitigate risk in settlement transactions. The trial court decided the software is unpatentable because it merely uses “the abstract idea of employing an intermediary to facilitate simultaneous exchange of obligations”. the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit split on the decision, teeing it up for the Supreme Court.
Timothy Lee of the Washington Post points out that if the Supreme Court broadly invalidates the software patents, it would allieviate the nuisance suits by ‘non-producing entities’ or ‘trolls’, since most involve software. Would it discourage Congress from its present mission to identify a legislative solution to the troll problem? Hopefully not.
While technology companies would applaud any reduction in the troll population, the Supreme Court may not wish to risk the wrath of big technology since many popular devices and online destinations are protected by software patents.
Hat tip to Kevin M. Robertson