The U.S. supreme Court has heard oral argument in a case, which raised significant interest in the technology community and generated dozens of amicus briefs, to consider whether “claims to computer-implemented inventions—including claims to systems and machines, processes, and items of manufacture—are directed to patent-eligible subject matter within the meaning of 35 u.s.C. § 101 as interpreted by” the Court. Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank Int’l, No. 13-298 (u.s., argued March 31, 2014).
The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals en banc majority affirmed the district court’s holding that the asserted method and computer-readable media claims were not patent eligible, and an equally divided court affirmed the lower court’s determination that the asserted system claims were not patent eligible under the statute. According to commentators, the Court’s last foray into the issue—Bilski v. Kappos—left the topic in disarray when it determined that a hedging method patent was too abstract and thus not patentable. Its reasoning gave the Federal Circuit little guidance, and in fact, that court issued seven separate opinions here. The petitioner has urged the court to correct Bilski and return to essential principles, allowing patents for any invention that does not describe a fundamental truth only. A decision in the matter, which will be considered one of the most significant patent cases in decades if the Court reverses the Federal Circuit, is expected by June.