Bilski patent decision: trying to return patents to their technological origins

By Andy Oram
November 10, 2008

The software industry is abuzz--almost as much as the legal field--with a October 28 court decision that everyone regards as a verdict on business patents, and that some think it will change software patenting as well. I've just published an exploration of the issue.

The experts are definitely on the case, so what's the value of this article? I wrote it because I believe that no one has tried to explain how the Bilski decision changes what is patentable (and what is not) using concepts that engineers and computer programmers can understand.

I don't want to wait for the experts to stop fighting among themselves because that will never happen, at least not till more court cases come up. (The court ruling said so itself.)

I also believe that it's useful to try to reach enlightenment through a different path. That's why I hope, while accepting my limitations as an amateur, that this article can help readers understand what has changed. What I offer here is an inductive exploration based on hypothetical examples. My approach allows me to make a lot of comparisons in a very small space and to base principles on relatively clean examples.

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