physics - 8:34 pm on Jul 2, 2010 (gmt 0)
PaulPA, the counterpoint to your comment is that many concerned citizens were hoping that the court would use this as an opportunity to totally reform patent law to stop abusive software and business method patents.
It seems like many are seeing this as a mixed victory:
Free Software Foundation
As opinions form about the extent to which the Court ruling impacts the patenting of software, one thing is clear. The State Street ruling that in 1998 opened the flood gates to the patenting of business methods and software has been gutted, if not technically overturned. The vast bulk of software patents that have been used to threaten developers writing code for a GNU/Linux distribution running on general purpose computers have in theory been swept away. The State Street ruling said that you could patent an item if there was a "useful, concrete and tangible result." In the Bilski ruling, the CAFC have set aside State Street and left us with what they believe to be a simplified test for patentability: the machine or transformation of matter test:
Thus, the proper inquiry under section 101 is not whether the process claim recites sufficient "physical steps," but rather whether the claim meets the machine-or-transformation test. As a result, even a claim that recites "physical steps" but neither recites a particular machine or apparatus, nor transforms any article into a different state or thing, is not drawn to patent-eligible subject matter. Conversely, a claim that purportedly lacks any "physical steps" but is still tied to a machine or achieves an eligible transformation passes muster under section 101."
Electronic Freedom Foundation
By watering down the CAFC’s “machine-or-transformation” test, the Supreme Court regrettably failed to provide guidance in the future about business method patents. For example, suppose a patent claim is not clearly unpatentable as just an abstract idea, but it does fail the now-optional “machine-or-transformation” test. When will such a claim be patentable? The Court did not answer that question, or provide details about how to apply its “abstract idea” test.
In sum, the Supreme Court’s ruling eroded the CAFC’s limits on process patents, and thus missed an opportunity to fix some of the problems with those patents.