That’s the weighty question keeping us up last night as we contemplated In Re Stephen Comiskey, the latest in a string of rulings that has chipped away at patent holdersâ€™ rights and reflects the growing concern over the patent-litigation boom. (Click here for the Federal Circuit ruling and the oral argument in the case.)
Legal experts say the court’s ruling in Comiskey may make it more difficult to obtain and enforce business-method patents, which are granted for abstract processes rather than specific devices. Lawyers also say the decision could help financial-services and software companies facing a barrage of patent-infringement litigation brought by patent holders.
The decision suggests that business-method patents will now be considered invalid unless the invention has a practical application and can be linked to a particular technology, such as a computer. The court said that “mental processesâ€”or processes of human thinkingâ€”standing alone arenâ€™t patentable even if they have practical application.”
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