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
May 24, 2024
Could these creepy crawly robo-critters be the first step on a slippery road to a robot uprising coupled with an insect uprising?...
May 23, 2024
We're investing in semiconductor workforce development programs in Latin America, including government and academic partnerships to foster engineering talent.The post Building the Semiconductor Workforce in Latin America appeared first on Chip Design....

featured paper

Achieve Greater Design Flexibility and Reduce Costs with Chiplets

Sponsored by Keysight

Chiplets are a new way to build a system-on-chips (SoCs) to improve yields and reduce costs. It partitions the chip into discrete elements and connects them with a standardized interface, enabling designers to meet performance, efficiency, power, size, and cost challenges in the 5 / 6G, artificial intelligence (AI), and virtual reality (VR) era. This white paper will discuss the shift to chiplet adoption and Keysight EDA's implementation of the communication standard (UCIe) into the Keysight Advanced Design System (ADS).

Dive into the technical details – download now.

featured chalk talk

Switch to Simple with Klippon Relay
In this episode of Chalk Talk, Amelia Dalton and Lars Hohmeier from Weidmüller explore the what, where, and how of Weidmüller's extensive portfolio of Klippon relays. They investigate the pros and cons of mechanical relays, the benefits that the Klippon universal range of relays brings to the table, and how Weidmüller's digital selection guide can help you choose the best relay solution for your next design.
Sep 26, 2023
29,948 views