Anybody else see this news from last Friday? The Federal Circuit published its decision in a case concerning software patents which have been plaguing the tech industry. This court is one level below the US Supreme Court and given the how divided the judges were it could be heading there soon. Here’s some quotes from the ruling.
For all practical purposes, every general- purpose computer will include “a computer,” “a data storage unit,” and “a communications controller” that would be capable of performing the same generalized functions required of the claimed systems to carry out the otherwise abstract methods recited therein.
Therefore, as with the asserted method claims, such limitations are not actually limiting in the sense required under § 101; they provide no significant “inventive concept.” The system claims are instead akin to stating the abstract idea of third-party intermediation and adding the words: “apply it” on a computer. See Mayo, 132 S. Ct. at 1294. That is not sufficient for patent eligibility, and the system claims before us fail to define patent-eligible subject matter under § 101, just as do the method and computer-readable medium claims.
No question should have arisen concerning the eligibility of claims to basic computer hardware under § 101 when such devices were first invented. But we are living and judging now (or at least as of the patents’ priority dates), and have before us not the patent eligibility of specific types of computers or computer components, but computers that have routinely been adapted by software consisting of abstract ideas, and claimed as such, to do all sorts of tasks that formerly were performed by humans. And the Supreme Court has told us that, while avoiding confusion between §101 and §§ 102 and 103, merely adding existing computer technology to abstract ideas—mental steps—does not as a matter of substance convert an abstract idea into a machine.