The Supreme Court of the United States has issued a ruling in a case on whether a concept that can be implemented in software on a general-purpose computer can be protected by patent. The case—Alice vs. CLS Bank—dealt with claims of patent-assertion entity Alice Corp. against CLS Bank, which has implemented an escrow system on which Alice claims to hold patent protection.
Justice Clarence Thomas delivered the opinion of the Court, finding against Alice. He stated, “We hold that the claims at issue are drawn to the abstract ides of intermediated settlement, and that merely requiring generic computer implementation fails to transform that abstract idea into a patent eligible invention.”
Tim Lee at Vox has offered some initial thoughts on the ruling. It “is bad news for software patents” but “not the knockout blow that some software patent opponents were hoping for.” He adds, “The ruling is plagued by conceptual confusion…” in which the court rejects a patent that merely requires a generic computer to perform generic functions. “But,” Lee writes, “many computer programmers would point out that this describes all software.”
Lee concludes by noting, “This will not be the last time the Supreme Court rules on the patentability of software.”