The Federal Circuit significantly limited the patentability of software and business methods today. Mike Masnick at TechDirt summarizes the holding of the case as follows:
the court has said that there’s a two-pronged test to determine whether a software of business method process patent is valid: (1) it is tied to a particular machine or apparatus, or (2) it transforms a particular article into a different state or thing. In other words, pure software or business method patents that are neither tied to a specific machine nor change something into a different state are not patentable.
I’m sure several of my TLF colleagues will have a great deal to say about this. Tim Lee has already written about this on Ars Technica:
The Bilski decision, then, is a clear signal that the pendulum has begun to swing back toward tighter limits on software and business patents. However, it remains to be seen how far the court will go in this direction. Bilski was a relatively easy case. The applicant made little effort to hide the fact that he was seeking to patent a mental process, something the Supreme Court has clearly said is not allowed. Therefore, the Federal Circuit’s rejection of this patent doesn’t tell us how it will rule when confronted with software or business method patents that are tied more directly to a physical machine or a transformation of matter. And indeed, the Federal Circuit reiterated that some software and business method patents are valid, so we are unlikely to return to the near-prohibition on such patents that prevailed until the early 1980s.