Jul 052010
The Supreme Court of the United States. Washin...
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There were high hopes that the Supreme Court would clear things up in the mushy, litigation-filled realm of patents on methods of doing business.

The court issued its much-anticipated ruling in the big patent case — Bilski and Warsaw v. Kappos — and it was anything but a landmark decision.

Still, there was a clear message for patent trolls, patent brokers and licensing companies, patent lawyers and lobbyists: Play on!

“The court is certainly not shutting the door on business method patents, as some thought it might,” said Josh Lerner, a patent expert at the Harvard Business School. “This preserves a fair amount of ambiguity.”

Indeed so. And perhaps, the amicus briefs from the likes of Microsoft and Google, appealing for court-defined clarity on what is and is not a patentable idea, were mostly wishful thinking in any case.

“The patent arena is an evolved market, complicated and nuanced,” said John Amster, chief executive of RPX which buys patents and patent rights, and whose corporate subscribers are protected from litigation on those patents.

“This is not a legal problem,” Mr. Amster said. “This is a market problem.”

Besides, if the Supreme Court declined to provide the kind of “bright-line” ruling that some had hoped for, it is well to keep in mind that even the high-tech giants differ sharply on business method patents.

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