An obscure Australian holding company wants to use a software patent to sue the global foreign exchange system. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in Alice v. CLS Bank.

Aurich Lawson

An hour-long oral argument (PDF) at the US Supreme Court today didn’t reveal much about what kind of test the justices might install to stop overly “abstract” patents from being granted. But several justices did seem skeptical about the idea that Australian holding company Alice Corp. had invented much of anything with its patents on a form of financial risk-management.
Alice Corp v. CLS Bank could be the most wide-ranging patent case in years if the justices choose to install a new test on software or “business method” patents. They last addressed the issue in Bilski, but that case left in place a rule that was unevenly applied. And the chaotic state of the law became clear when the Alice v. CLS case resulted in a deeply fractured set of opinions from the nation’s top patent court.
Alice is an Australian holding company that used four patents to make infringement claims against CLS Bank back in 2007. CLS Bank, owned by more than 60 large banks throughout the world, is a key piece of the global banking infrastructure, settling upwards of $5 trillion in foreign-exchange trades each day.
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