The History of Software Patents in the United States
Software patents have a long history in the United States. Computer implemented processes, or software, has been patented in the United States since 1968… Originally in Benson, the Supreme Court decided that software was not patentable, but then later retracted the blanket prohibition against patenting software in Diehr. The Federal Circuit then spent the better part of two decades trying to figure out under what circumstances software (or computer related processes) should be patented. This seemed to culminate in the 1998 ruling of the Federal Circuit in State Street Bank & Trust Co. v. Signature Financial Group, Inc. Unfortunately, the waters were once again made murky as a result of the 2008 ruling by the Federal Circuit in In re Bilski. Some questions were answered when the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Bikski v. Kappos in 2010, notably saying that business methods are patent eligible, but the Supreme Court did not definitively say that software is patent eligible. Then in June 2014, the Supreme Court issued a decision in Alice Corporation v. CLS Bank, which has for the time being slammed the door shut for many, if not most, software patents.