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You are here: Home FSF News US Supreme Court makes the right decision to nix Alice Corp. patent, but more work needed to end software patents for good

US Supreme Court makes the right decision to nix Alice Corp. patent, but more work needed to end software patents for good

by Free Software Foundation Contributions Published on Jun 19, 2014 04:55 PM
BOSTON, Massachusetts, USA -- Thursday, June 19, 2014 -- Today the United States Supreme Court unanimously ruled a prominent software patent invalid in the case of Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank, saying that implementing an abstract idea on a computer does not make that idea patent-eligible.

The FSF, Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC), and Open Source Initiative (OSI) had co-filed an amicus curiae brief in the case, stating their position that software on general-purpose computers is not patentable.

"Today's ruling is an important and meaningful step in the right direction, but the Court and Congress must go further," said Zak Rogoff, a campaigns manager at the FSF.

Software patents force software developers, especially those who write free software, to navigate a minefield of spurious legal claims. The number of software patents has ballooned as software companies have scrambled to amass arsenals of patents to threaten each other, as in the recently exposed aggression by Microsoft against Google over smartphone patents.

In the case ruled on today, Alice Corp. had claimed a patent for an unoriginal idea, simply because it was implemented in software to run on a computer.

FSF executive director John Sullivan lauded the Supreme Court for recognizing this: "For years, lawyers have been adding 'on a computer' to the end of abstract idea descriptions to try and turn them into patents, much like kids have been adding 'in bed' to the end of their fortune cookies to try and make new jokes. We're pleased to see the Court reject this attempt and send a signal to others."

For decades, the FSF has argued that it is impossible to solve the problem of software patents by getting individual software patents struck down. The FSF will continue to work for their complete abolition, and participate actively in future legal decisions. Those wishing to become involved in the grassroots movement against software patents can get started with the FSF-hosted End Software Patents project and its prominent wiki. An analysis of the Supreme Court's ruling is currently underway on the wiki and open for public participation.

Sullivan added, "Software patents are a noxious weed that needs to be ripped out by the roots. Too many organizations are clamoring for 'reform,' thinking they can trim the weed into a Bonsai. The FSF is one of the few organizations working for the only real solution. Software on general-purpose computers is not patentable, period."

About the Free Software Foundation

The Free Software Foundation, founded in 1985, is dedicated to promoting computer users' right to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute computer programs. The FSF promotes the development and use of free (as in freedom) software -- particularly the GNU operating system and its GNU/Linux variants -- and free documentation for free software. The FSF also helps to spread awareness of the ethical and political issues of freedom in the use of software, and its Web sites, located at fsf.org and gnu.org, are an important source of information about GNU/Linux. Donations to support the FSF's work can be made at https://donate.fsf.org. Its headquarters are in Boston, MA, USA.

Media Contacts

Zak Rogoff
Campaigns Manager
Free Software Foundation
+1 (617) 542 5942
campaigns@fsf.org

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