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04.10.08

Patents Roundup: EPO Patent Numbers Decrease; Bilski Revisited

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software, Patents, Red Hat at 11:08 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

For those with great interest in the “software patents death watch” (wishful thinking perhaps), here is a summary of relevant reports.

Less is More

In Europe, there are encouraging signs indicated by a fall in the number of patents. [via Digital Majority]

While computing remains one of the most active fields, the proportion of computer patent filings fell by 0.8 per cent last year. Meanwhile, the related field of information storage, which has seen a flood of applications in recent years, saw its share of total filings drop by a staggering 18 per cent last year.

Rise in the quality of patents and a less permissive (i.e. less receptive of abuse) system can lead to this.

Bilski Roundup

We have covered the Bilski case on several occasions over the past few days [1, 2, 3]. It’s an high-impact development. A tsunami of articles that we have not yet mentioned is listed below for future reference (or for your reading pleasure).

In a statement, ESP Executive Director Ben Klemens said, “This is an historic opportunity to fix the U.S. patent system, as the Bilski rehearing will directly address the boundaries of the subject matter of patents. In our brief, the End Software Patents project supports the Supreme Court’s long-held position that computer software should not be patentable, and has highlighted to the Court the real economic harm software patents cause the U.S. economy.”

End Software Patents (ESP) has filed an amicus curiae brief in the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit’s (CAFC) rehearing of the In re Bilski case.

Some more comments on this press release you can find here.

In re Bilski is an appellate court case that provides an opportunity to eliminate business method patents and curtail efforts to claim monopolies on basic human skills, behaviors, and interactions. Bilski is challenging the rejection of his application for a patent on a method of managing the risk of bad weather through commodities trading.

In light of Red Hat joining this attack (unlike Novell):

The algorithm in Benson, Red Hat says, was and is “useful”, but the Supreme Court said it wasn’t patentable, so being useful, as State Street put it, clearly can’t be sufficient alone. The two cases clash, and the Supreme Court trumps. In short, it’s an educational task here, to help the court to understand the tech sufficiently to draw a line in the right place. The way to get a court to reverse itself isn’t to tell it that it’s wrong. You have to show why, using cases that are binding upon the court, which is what this brief is doing.

This week Red Hat filed with the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals to carefully examine the state of software patents in the country. According to Red Hat, a company ripe with support for open source software, software patents are being issued at an alarming rate, and many of them are obvious ideas that should not have passed the patent desk to begin with.

There is hope for improvement. Never say never.

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