I’ve weighed in with my opinion on patents—particularly software patents—a few times. For the most part, I think software patents are a very bad idea, because they describe process, and process can’t be patented.

Unless, of course, it can be.

“The Facebook Patent” (7,669,123) is one example of a patent that describes a process, but no thing.  Amazon Patent 7,739,139 is even worse in this regard. Both talk about how something works, but don’t actually describe anything that’s been “created” other than an idea. Ideas can’t be patented. Business Process therefore can’t be patented either.

Unless, of course, it can be.

Yesterday, The United States Supreme Court ruled that a Business Process can in fact be patented, but that it needs to include as part of the business process, a machine. Don’t try to understand what the word “machine” means; your head will explode.

I suppose this makes sense in its way; if you create a machine that does something unique (patentable) you should also be able to apply for and receive a patent on the way the machine gets used (the business process). But the Supreme Court, in ruling that to be the case, was ambiguous because they failed to specify what a machine is. Which of course makes sense (see previous caveat about exploding heads).

Which brings me back to where this started: software patents are a very bad idea. Or am I wrong?

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