Bilski party come what may
For Supreme Court watchers, following Bilski has been like following the World Cup. Productivity has fallen and ulcers have grown. Later this morning, the Supreme Court is expected to finally deliver some relief with a landmark ruling.
At the Free Software Foundation we are welcoming Bilski watchers to a lunchtime party to reflect on the ruling. Anti-software patent campaigners will either be rejoicing together with some bubbly and news that software patents have been limited, or be crying into their beer discussing plans for the next stage in the twenty-year campaign to bring some sanity to the world of software. Either way, we're happy for like-minded visitors to join us.
The Bilski decision is expected to be a milestone, for better or worse, in the decades-long effort to rid the software world of the harmful effects of software patents.
The FSF's own End Software Patents (ESP) campaign has been focused on the Bilski case from its beginning, attempting to bring consideration to software patents in a case that was originally about business method patents.
ESP submitted a strong anti-software patent brief for the 2008 hearing of the In re Bilski case at the CAFC. After the CAFC gave a relatively hopeful ruling, ESP started building its wiki to collect information and resources for all campaigns against software patents.
To many people's surprise, the Supreme Court decided in 2009 to review the CAFC decision. ESP again submitted a brief, highlighting the CAFC's continued misreading of Diamond v. Diehr and the real harm being caused in the USA by software patents.
The launch of our 2010 film "Patent Absurdity: How software patents broke the system" (http://patentabsurdity.com) also helped explain the history of software patents—and the problems they cause. The film has been downloaded more than 100,000 times since its release and has inspired other anti-software patent campaigners to distribute the movie to top US patent policy makers.
Whatever the Supreme Court decides, it's clear that this issue won't end anytime soon. Congress is considering a patent reform bill, and the US government has been working to push its software patent laws to other countries through treaties like ACTA.
The Surpeme Court has kept us biting our nails since the November hearing. Today is the last day for the court to publish opinions this term. If you'd like to sit on the edge of a seat in the FSF office with the rest of us, you'd be very welcome.
The FSF office is at 51 Franklin Street, 5th Floor, in downtown Boston. Check our contact page for directions and more information about visiting.
You can follow our analysis of the ruling here.