November 5, 2009
On November 9, The Supreme Court of the United States will hear opening arguments in the most high stakes patent law case on its docket in more than two decades, Bilski v. Kappos.
The case centers around the US Patent Office’s rejection of Bernard Bilski’s application on a computer-assisted method of hedging risk in the commodities trade, but the court’s decision will have much wider implications.
At issue in Bilski is a patent system that has come to stifle rather than spur innovation over the past 20 years by awarding patents to “business methods” that are central to the operations of pharmaceutical companies, financial services firms, and insurance providers, among others. Activities that have become part of peoples’ daily lives, from online shopping to searching Wikipedia, will also be affected by Bilski.
As a non-profit legal services firm for Free and Open Source Software programmers, the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) is one of the many organizations with an interest in the outcome of Bilski. Google, Bank of America, J.C. Penney, and Bloomberg LLC are some of the other third-parties that submitted briefs to the court.
The SFLC has published a new Bilski resource page to guide anyone interested in the history and significance of the case. It includes short summaries of some of the briefs submitted to the court, background documents, previously published SFLC commentary about the case, and links to other web resources.