editor's blog
Subscribe Now

Supreme Court to Take On Software Patents

One of the big bugaboos in the software world over the years has been the question over whether or not software can be patented. It’s generally thought that algorithms in the abstract can’t be patented. Software can be copyrighted, but that’s no help if someone can just take your basic brainstorm and rewrite the code so it’s not a copy. They’ve still taken your intellectual property, learn more by taking one of this copywriting courses.

Patents were “invented” in the era of mechanical contraptions. Well, we’re beyond those times now. I’ve always found it perplexing that the implementation of an algorithm – like division – can be patented if it involves moving metal parts around in an addition machine (which was patented), but not if it merely involves moving electrons around in a computer.

The other contradiction is that you can patent “things” and “methods.” The latter are, essentially, processes. Take the infamous patented gene issue. Companies tried to isolate genes and then patent them. Thankfully, the Supreme Court decided that they hadn’t invented the gene any more than Kepler had invented the ellipse. They just found a way to isolate it: perhaps patenting that isolation process would be legitimate.

But what is an algorithm? It’s a process. It’s a method. So if you come up with a clever way to manage information, why isn’t that subject to patent protection? It involves no less ingenuity or value than an actual physical process.

Back when I used to dabble in patent drafting, the “get out of jail” insurance used was to try to patent the software, but also patent it as implemented or stored on a hard drive or some other physical entity that made it more than just a fuzzy software notion: now real hardware was involved. But no one knew if that would really hold up if held to the test. And, apparently it’s depended on the court or district.

So the good news is that the Supreme Court will decide this once and for all. The risk is that they could find that software can’t be patented. That could, in theory, limit software protection to trade secret status. And trade secrets work only if access is limited to an exalted few. Which is so not the case with software.

I, for one, will be watching with great interest to see where this decision goes.

Leave a Reply

featured blogs
Oct 22, 2021
Voltus TM IC Power Integrity Solution is a power integrity and analysis signoff solution that is integrated with the full suite of design implementation and signoff tools of Cadence to deliver the... [[ Click on the title to access the full blog on the Cadence Community site...
Oct 21, 2021
We share AI chip design insights from AI Hardware Summit 2021, including wafer scale AI accelerator chips, high-bandwidth memory interfaces, and custom SoCs. The post 4 Futuristic Design Takeaways from the AI Hardware Summit 2021 appeared first on From Silicon To Software....
Oct 20, 2021
I've seen a lot of things in my time, but I don't think I was ready to see a robot that can walk, fly, ride a skateboard, and balance on a slackline....
Oct 4, 2021
The latest version of Intel® Quartus® Prime software version 21.3 has been released. It introduces many new intuitive features and improvements that make it easier to design with Intel® FPGAs, including the new Intel® Agilex'„¢ FPGAs. These new features and improvements...

featured video

Simplify building automation designs with MSP430

Sponsored by Texas Instruments

Smart building automation requires simple, flexible designs. With integrated, high-performance signal chain, MSP430 MCUs can enable high-accuracy motion detection, sensing and motor control to take performance and efficiency to the next level.

Click here for more information

featured paper

3 ways to speed cycle time when designing with brushless-DC motors

Sponsored by Texas Instruments

Designing systems with BLDC motors can be challenging, because it usually requires complex hardware and optimized software designs to deliver reliable real-time control. This article discusses three methods for simplifying the process.

Click to read more

featured chalk talk

Medical Device Security

Sponsored by Siemens Digital Industries Software

In the new era of connected medical devices, securing embedded systems has become more important than ever. But, there is a lot medical device designers can borrow from current best-practices for embedded security in general. In this episode of Chalk Talk, Amelia Dalton chats with Robert Bates from Mentor about strategies and challenges for securing modern medical devices and systems.

Click here to download the whitepaper, "Medical Device Security: Achieving Regulatory Approval"