An anonymous reader writes We had some good news yesterday when the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a software patent for failing to turn an idea into an invention. Unfortunately, the justices weren't willing to make any broader statements about the patentability of basic software tools, so the patent fights will continue. Timothy B. Lee at Vox argues that this is because the Supreme Court does not understand software, and says we won't see significant reform until they do.
He says, "If a sequence of conventional mathematical operations isn't patentable, then no software should enjoy patent protection. For example, the 'data compression' patents that Justice Kennedy wants to preserve simply claim formulas for converting information from one digital format to another. If that's not a mathematical algorithm, nothing is. This is the fundamental confusion at the heart of America's software patent jurisprudence: many judges seem to believe that mathematical algorithms shouldn't be patented but that certain kinds of software should be patentable. ... If a patent claims a mathematical formula simple enough for a judge to understand how it works, she is likely to recognize that the patent claims a mathematical formula and invalidate it. But if the formula is too complex for her to understand, then she concludes that it's something more than a mathematical algorithm and uphold it."