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28 June 2010, 16:52

US Supreme Court rejects Bilski patent but nothing else

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In the US Supreme Court case Bilski vs Kappos, the court has ruled that Bilski's business method patent was invalid, but also ruled that the "machine or transformation" test, which earlier courts had applied as an exclusive rule, was not the only test for patentability. Within the free software community, hopes had been pinned on the court confirming the lower courts' rulings, as this would have opened up a route to challenging software patents which could often fail the exclusive "machine or transformation" test. The full seventy-one pages of the Supreme Court's decision are availablePDF to download.

Reaction from the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) was immediate. Eben Moglen, Chairman of the SFLC, said "The confusion and uncertainty behind today’s ruling guarantees that the issues involved in Bilski v. Kappos will have to return to the Supreme Court after much money has been wasted and much innovation obstructed". Daniel Ravicher, the SFLC's legal director said the court had missed an opportunity to "send a strong signal that ideas are not patentable subject matter" and that the rejection of the Bilski patent "got rid of a symptom, but failed to treat the real cause".

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