Can Software Be Patented? Supreme Court to Decide

19 12 2013

Ashley Jones Dec 6 2013,

WSJ law blog

The U.S. Supreme Court will attempt to answer a question that has perplexed the technology industry for decades: When is a piece of software patentable?

On Friday, the high court agreed to hear an appeal of a case that has tied lower courts in knots. A May ruling in the case from a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., yielded seven opinions, totaling more than 120 pages, and no clear answer to whether – and when – computer code should get patent protection.

The issue has created a curious split in the technology sector. On one side lie technology giants such as Google Inc., Facebook Inc.FB -1.87%, and Intuit Inc.INTU -0.05%, which largely believe the Patent & Trademark Office has issued too many software patents in recent years, and would like to see courts apply a more exacting standard when reviewing them.

On the other, lies a collection of big and small technology companies, including International Business Machines Corp.IBM +0.89%, which worry that tighter standards on software patents could hurt innovation.


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