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Supreme Court to rule on software patent protection

First SCOTUS case in decades on software patents could have wide-ranging ramifications

The technology space has been consumed in the fires of patent warfare for the last several years, as tech giants have battled in court, arguing about potential infringements in the latest devices and gadgets. Software patents have been at the heart of many of these cases, but the Supreme Court has remained mostly silent on this matter. Until now. 

On Dec. 6, the justices agreed to hear arguments concerning a patented method of mitigating risk related to derivative trading. In a federal appeals court ruling, one judge noted that the result of this case could potentially call hundreds of thousands of patents into question.

This debate has divided the tech industry, with companies like Google and Facebook holding the opinion that software patent standards are too lax, which opens the door for a flood of lawsuits. On the other hand, tech companies like Microsoft and Oracle are afraid that court rulings could curb technological innovation and harm the economy.

In the past, the Supreme Court has had difficulty with patent-related rulings. In 2010, the court was divided over a covered business method ruling and in 2012 it limited patents concerning medical diagnostic tests. In June of this year, it restricted companies’ ability to patent human genes.

Interestingly, the Supreme Court has never officially ruled on whether or not software can, indeed, be patented and has not addressed any software-related patents since the 1980s.


For more patent news, check out the following:

Breaking: House passes patent reform bill

Nokia wins key ruling against HTC for ongoing patent case on smartphones

Retail, tech industry become latest players in the war on patent reform

IP: How reissue patents may help you sleep at night



Senior Editor and Community Manager

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Rich Steeves

Richard P. Steeves is Senior Editor and Community Manager of InsideCounsel magazine, where he covers the intellectual property and compliance beats. Rich earned a B.A....

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