A federal appeals court is about to review a case with broad implications for abstract technology patents. 

From BusinessInsider:

"Alice, based in Melbourne, Australia, and owned in part by National Australia Bank Ltd, holds a portfolio of patents, including four that cover a computerized system for exchanging financial obligations. The company argues that when an invention requires the use of a computer, even if it involves an abstract idea, "it's patentable if the computer plays a significant role in the invention.

Many technology and Internet companies worry that too many patents have been granted for simple ideas, hindering others from building innovations using those principles. They say this slows technology development, though other companies, including smaller developers and individuals, say inventors deserve legal protections for their innovations.
Google, Dell Inc and Facebook filed a friend-of-the-court brief criticizing the appeals panel's earlier decision.


They wrote that "bare-bones patents" like Alice's do not innovate enough on their own to deserve patent protection. "The real work comes later, when others undertake the innovative task of developing concrete applications," they wrote.


LinkedIn Corp, Twitter and others also submitted a friend-of-the-court brief, arguing against too much leniency in granting patents, though they did not pledge support for either side in the case.


International Business Machines Corp, on the other hand, filed a brief saying most software inventions qualify for patent protection. IBM, which has topped the list of U.S. patent recipients for 20 years, cautioned the court against creating a strict rule that would further limit protection, though it did not side with either party in the lawsuit."

more detailed & formal synopsis here hints at how out of their depth judges are when ruling on such technical issues

related hilarity over at Dangerous Prototypes

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Comment by Gary McCray on February 13, 2013 at 12:28pm

Patents are what has made American Industry great, unfortunately as much as not at the expense of the American  People.

Patents were originally conceived as a way of providing remuneration to the inventor for undertaking to create something unique. It was for people.

Unfortunately, they became the property of companies, even as the inventors became the property of companies.

Inventors now seldom get any actual reward for their inventions other than a pay check.

Edison loved this system.

He was wrong!

Comment by Mathew krawczun on February 13, 2013 at 10:19pm

yeah I have to say the whole idea of patents has gotten messed up in this country. when ruff shapes and vague ideas get patented wee're way off the path.

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