In re Bilski (PDF) is the name of a recent patent case that could have significant impact on software patents. Before you click away thinking this has nothing to do with you, consider that a recent dispute over a software patent almost took down the entire Blackberry network. Or consider that there is litigation pending now over software patents involving real estate map search. Software patents have the potential to impact all of us.
There’s a lot of controversy over the Bilski decision, with some arguing that it means the end of all software patents and others arguing that the case changes little. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and BusinessWeek have all weighed in as well, heralding the potential sea change afoot. What seems clear is that otherwise unpatentable ideas cannot be made patentable simply by implementing them on a general purpose computer, which provides some needed clarity to the area of software patents.
I’ve written before that applying 20 years of patent protection to software fundamentally ignores the nature of software development, and so I’ll be watching to see if Bilski goes up to the Supreme Court or not and I’ll try to keep you up to date as well.