The US Supreme Court [official website] agreed [order list, PDF] Friday to rule on a a key software patent case. The question before the court in Alice Corporation Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank International [docket; cert. petition, PDF] is: "Whether claims to computer-implemented inventionsincluding claims to systems and machines, processes, and items of manufactureare directed to patent-eligible subject matter within the meaning of 35 USC § 101 [text] as interpreted by this Court?" The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit [official website] ruled [JURIST report] in May that an abstract idea is not patentable simply because it is tied to a computer system. Analysts say the ruling could have serious implications [Bloomberg report] for software and business method patents.
The patentability of business methods and software as "processes" is a controversial subject among practitioners. The Supreme Court ruled in 2010 in Bilski v. Kappos [JURIST report]] that business method patents may qualify as patentable subject matter but that a specific method for hedging risks in commodities trading is ineligible for patent protection because it is an abstract idea.