Bonum Certa Men Certa

United States Supreme Court May Call Off Software Patents

U.S. Supreme Court hallway
US Supreme Court hallway



Summary: In Re Bilski takes a trip up law's lane

WHEN the ruling in Re Bilski came out, many assumed it was the end of software patents, but there was no official word on the subject, just continued disputes and disagreements [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14]. The ruling is now being ascended to the Supreme Court, whose decision may be more explicit on this subject matter [pun intended].



In the ruling, the Court decided unanimously that the Sixth Circuit Court had improperly “derailed” an Ohio state court’s consideration of a claim by a death row inmate that he is mentally retarded, and thus cannot be executed. The Circuit Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in Bobby v. Bies (08-598), was wrong in issuing a habeas ruling that inmate Michael Bies’ retardation had already been established. Bies must pursue that claim in a pending state court case, the Justices concluded.

In an unsigned (”per curiam”) opinion, the Court by a 7-2 vote overturned a $5 million jury verdict in favor of a railroad employee who had work-related brain damage and lung diseases after prolonged exposure to a toxic chemical in the workplace. The Court found that the jury should have been instructed on what the worker must prove to show a genuine fear that he would someday develop cancer. The ruling came in CSX Transportation v. Hensley (08-1034). Justices Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens dissented.


Will there be less ambiguity regarding the impact on software patents this time around? The FFII-affiliated crowd has already responded to the news:

The article gives a brief summary on the case and some implications form a pro-SwPat perspective. Indeed, in the end there's somewhat surprising summary of the effects of the ruling: "Thankfully, it does not seem as if Bilski has turned out to be the impediment to patentability that many feared, at least insofar as the Untited States Patent and Trademark Office is concerned. In fact, based on what is going on at the USPTO one could make a convincing argument that it is actually getting easier to obtain patents that relate to software and computer related processes."


Comments can be found in Slashdot and in popular subscribers-only Linux sites where AstroTurfing is hardly existent. More coverage can be found in:



There will be a lot more overage of this in days to come. If software patents are annulled in the United States, then it probably will eliminate them globally, in due time.

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