The US Supreme Court is hearing a really important case today that will have a huge effect on computer software.
The Patent Office lacks the skills to make sense of computer software patents, and most people in the software business think software and business process software patents are out of control.
This specific case involves a patent issued to manage escrow accounts “using a computer”. The concept of an escrow account is not patentable as it has existed for centuries – but tack on “using a computer” and suddenly it is. The “inventor” doesn’t have to actually have a functioning product – but with patent in hand, they can demand payments from anyone using computers to track escrow accounts.
Defending against patent trolls is enormously expensive – while I was working at NASDAQ, they were sued by a patent claiming “invention” of the idea of showing bid prices on the left side and offer prices on the right side using a computer terminal.
The concept of a market having a chalkboard and showing the buy price on the left and the sell price on the right so the crowd can have knowledge of prices probably goes back 2,500 years.
NASDAQ ultimately won and the patent was thrown out after spending many millions of dollars. It scared them so much they went into the vague patent business (my name is on several of patents as co inventor even though I opposed the patents – I was a former employee and had no contractural obligation to assign any rights to them).
The possibility of software patent trolls is part of the reason there is no revenue stream here by design. 10% of all my profits ($0) is still $0.00
I hope they really swing a huge sledgehammer at this. Software will still have copyright and trademark protection, but patent protection on concepts has to go. I wish Congress would have clarified patents by a law – but way too many of them are lawyers.