One of the reasons that software patents have run rampant over the past couple of decades is because the Federal Circuit Appeals Court—which handles all patent cases—has been effectively ignoring Supreme Court precedent. Over the past few years the Supreme Court has pushed back on this, but only around the edges in cases with fairly specialized applications. Next month, however, for the first time in 33 years, they'll finally hear a case that explicitly gives them an opportunity to rein in the Federal Circuit and restate existing precedent that puts substantial restrictions on the ability to patent a software process.
Will they do it? Or will they shy away because it would strip billions of dollars in assets from software companies with huge patent portfolios? Tim Lee examines the possibilities here.