In what could be seen as a victory for doers, and a bit of a setback for thinkers, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has made a rather significant ruling on what is and isn’t patentable. The court ruled against a man who was attempting to patent “a method for hedging against weather-related effects on businesses.” As a result, infamous patents like Amazon’s “one-click” shopping concept may no longer be valid, because they don’t either “involve a particular machine” or “physically transform anything.”
In essence, the ruling means that business ideas in and of themselves aren’t patentable. In addition to Amazon’s “one-click” patent, which is the concept of purchasing something via credit card by just clicking a single website link, Friendster’s patents on social networking also come to mind as being unpatentable based on this judgement. That patent covers a “system, method and apparatus for connecting users in an online computer system based on their relationships within social networks” and a “method of inducing content uploads in a social network,” amongst other claims.
To me, this all sounds like a pretty reasonable ruling, although two judges offered dissenting opinions. While Friendster so far hasn’t tried to enforce their patent by going after competing social networks – all of which would seemingly be in violation based on their patent claims – you can imagine the type of drama and disruption of innovation it would cause in our space if they did. For some more in-depth analysis of the ruling and its legal ramifications, check out Mike Masnick’s coverage at Techdirt.
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