Today, a Federal court of appeals ruling definitely caught the attention of tech companies world wide: in a 9-3 ruling, the court effectively made patenting anything not directly related to an actual machine or object—most purely software-only patents, for example—against the law. As you might imagine, this has massive implications, and the battle is likely to carry on to the Supreme Court.
The case originally centered on a patent for "a method of managing the risk of bad weather through commodities trading"—which falls more under the "business process" bucket, but the same ruling effectively makes patenting a specific software process impossible. The previous ruling allowed such patents, so long as computers were involved and the process produced a "useful, concrete, and tangible result." This ruling rejects that premise, favouring instead an older test that only allows patents for things involving an actual machine or a transformation of a tangible object into a different state.
So basically, for the moment, our patent law has been brought back to the 19th century. But a shift in this direction for more of a compromise will help curb the ridiculous, constant, non-stop patent war, along with the associated big-time litigation and the shaft that gets handed down to open-source projects trying to abide by the laws.
Either way, this case is almost certainly headed for the Supreme Court. [eweek]