OPEN SAUCE software firm Red Hat has called on the US Supreme Court to ban software patents.
The company said in a legal filing (PDF) this week that the practice of registering software patents stifles the industry and leaves developers open to exploitation.
The papers were filed in the Bilski case, which involves the patenting of a business process, but Red Hat believes that the case shares many similarities with software patents.
"Red Hat continues its commitment to the free and open-source software community by taking a strong position against bad software patents," said Rob Tiller, vice president and assistant general counsel for intellectual property at Red Hat.
"Our patent system is supposed to foster innovation but, for open source and software in general, it does the opposite. Software patents form a minefield that slows and discourages software innovation. The Bilski case presents a great opportunity for the Supreme Court to rectify this problem."
Red Hat argues that "patent trolls" have exploited the current legal system, and are developing lawsuits that make the most of the confusion surrounding the hundreds of thousands of patents that "cover abstract technology in vague and difficult-to-interpret terms".
The company warned that this leaves developers facing "weak but costly patent infringement lawsuits".
"The scope of patentable subject matter is an issue of critical importance to the future development of all software, including open source," Red Hat said. µ