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One Small Leap for Open Source, One Giant Leap for Mankind
October 1, 2009
by Jim Whitehurst, President and CEO
What if you could develop software without risking a patent infringement lawsuit?
What if open source innovation was unencumbered by lurking patent trolls?
What if there were no software patents?
The United States Supreme Court will be reviewing the Bilski case in the coming weeks. The Court’s decision in this case could help move some of these “what ifs” closer to reality.
The Bilski case involves the standard for patenting a process. The Federal Circuit issued its decision in the case about a year ago, and now it’s up for Supreme Court review. The high court’s decision on patentable subject matter is of huge importance to the future of software development, including open source. The Court’s ruling on Bilski could clarify the law and lessen the risks that software innovation will be hindered by patents.
The Federal Circuit’s decision in Bilski recognized that abstract ideas are not patentable, and a new test for patentability was substituted. The Federal Circuit set forth a clear test to determine if a process is patentable in stating that it must be either “tied to a particular machine or apparatus” or must “transform a particular article into a different state or thing.”
Red Hat has continually shown our commitment to open source throughout the Bilski proceedings. Today, we announced that we’ve filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court explaining the practical problems of software patents to software developers. It also asks the Supreme Court to adopt the machine-or-transformation test set forth in the Bilski case and to make clear that it excludes software from patentability.
While we haven’t won yet, Red Hat will continue fighting for the good of technology and for the good of innovation.