The most-anticipated patent decision from this Supreme Court term was published today. The decision involves finance-related software patents that were being used against CLS Bank, a key part of the global financial infrastructure.
The court ruled unanimously that all of patent-holder Alice Corp.’s claims were invalid, because they simply added computer language to a basic idea: using a financial intermediary to create trust in transactions. The 9-0 opinion [PDF], written by Justice Clarence Thomas, is the clearest statement yet from the Supreme Court that adding technological-sounding language to existing ideas isn’t enough to get a patent.
Some advocates were hoping the case would go so far as to eliminate software patents altogether. If that were to happen, this would have likely been the case to do it. But the court didn’t go that far, instead suggesting that software patents could still be allowed when they “improve the functioning of the computer itself” or “improve an existing technological process.”
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