Sign In

Communications of the ACM

Legally speaking

Is Software Patentable?


Is Software Patentable? illustration

Credit: Shutterstock.com

The patentability of computer program innovations has been controversial for nearly 50 years. In the 1960s and 1970s there was considerable doubt these innovations were or should be eligible for patent protection. By the mid-1980s the tide shifted and software innovations were increasingly deemed eligible for patents. Doubts about the patentability of software seemed to dissipate in the mid- to late 1990s. After all, programs are technological in nature and any design that can be implemented in software can equally well be implemented in hardware, which would unquestionably be patentable.

Interestingly, the tide seems to be shifting again. The German legislature recently passed a resolution calling for the cessation of patenting for most software-related innovations. New Zealand has been considering an outright ban on software patents. In the last several years, the U.S. Supreme Court has called into question many—and perhaps even most—software patents. Even the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC), which has long taken a liberal view of innovations that qualify for patenting, recently struck down some software patents in the CLS Bank International v. Alice Corp. case.


 

No entries found

Log in to Read the Full Article

Sign In

Sign in using your ACM Web Account username and password to access premium content if you are an ACM member, Communications subscriber or Digital Library subscriber.

Need Access?

Please select one of the options below for access to premium content and features.

Create a Web Account

If you are already an ACM member, Communications subscriber, or Digital Library subscriber, please set up a web account to access premium content on this site.

Join the ACM

Become a member to take full advantage of ACM's outstanding computing information resources, networking opportunities, and other benefits.
  

Subscribe to Communications of the ACM Magazine

Get full access to 50+ years of CACM content and receive the print version of the magazine monthly.

Purchase the Article

Non-members can purchase this article or a copy of the magazine in which it appears.