In new case, Supreme Court revisits the question of software patents

By Timothy B. Lee – On Monday (Mar 31), for the first time since 1981, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether software — or more precisely, computer-implemented inventions — can continue to be patented.

Given the business interests at stake, the high court faces a rich dilemma: Since 1998, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued hundreds of thousands of software patents [2, 3] — collectively worth billions of dollars to companies such as IBM, Microsoft and Oracle. If they rule that software cannot be patented, the justices could decimate the patent arsenals of some of America’s wealthiest companies.

Software patents have had all the negative effects they anticipated: Innovative companies have been forced to divert resources from hiring engineers to hiring patent lawyers. more>

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