Business processes can be patented, the US Supreme Court has ruled in a landmark decision.
This should open the way for companies to protect their business processes by applying for patents in the USA. And it will put pressure on other countries to follow suit.
The Supreme Court has swept away the notion that a patent can only be granted to a machine or some method of transforming materials. The original definition of what can be patented included “processes, machines, manufacturers, and compositions of materials.” It excludes laws of nature, physical phenomena and abstract ideas.
In Bilski v Kappos the US Supreme Court said clearly that processes includes business processes.
Bilski had what it called a business process for hedging in energy markets. Bilski lost this particular case because the Supreme Court decided that its method was not a business process but an abstract idea which cannot be patented. If it had been a business process it could have been patented, the Court said.
This will sadden many who feel that the extension of patents is an attack on human ingenuity; a limitation of our freedom. The End Software Patents organisation will be particularly unhappy about the ruling.
But there it is. The Court said patents were there to encourage ingenuity and ingenuity should receive a liberal encouragement.
The lawyers will be happy as many more cases will be fought to define what a business process is.