TWO ADVOCACY ORGANISATIONS, the End Software Patents (ESP) and the Free Software Foundation (FSF), have filed an amicus curiae brief with the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit's (CAFC) rehearing of the In re Bilski case, set to be heard on May 8, 2008. This rehearing could have significant implications and mean the death of software patents.
Amicus curiae briefings are sometimes filed in cases where judgments could potentially have broad implications, as a way of offering a third party opinion on a point of law or some other aspect of the case to assist the court in deciding a matter before it. The opinion is not solicited by any of the parties actually involved in the case, and is basically just an outside opinion, meant to make the decision fairer.
Earlier Federal Circuit rulings more or less effectively erased the boundaries of what can and can’t be patented, creating something of a massive-scale liability in the US economy, meaning that non software companies like McDonald's, Wal-Mart, Kraft Foods, Caterpillar and some fifty others are being sued for infringement because of their web sites or other software.
Ben Klemens, ESP’s executive director said that the case was a “historic opportunity”, and that the brief had supported “the Supreme Court's long-held position that computer software should not be patentable”.
In an ironic twist, it’s even reported that the Federal Circuit's own web site could be produced on software patent infringing software. So it would be in their interest to abolish to do away with the silly software patent laws before somebody sues them. µ
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