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