Listen to, or read the Supreme Court’s fascinating oral arguments for Bilski v. Kappos. I can’t help but think: given the difficulty in defining “machine” or “transformation”, does this portend a day when patents are no longer properly definable? Is the distinction between “abstract idea” and “technology” ultimately arbitrary?
If you care at all about software patents and intellectual property, you really should pay attention to this case. (If you are an I/T architect, I strongly suggest you do.)
In the end the Supreme Court said that the machine-or-transformation test was not the only test which determines patent eligibility and that all aspects of the patent must be considered. Though not producing of definite rules, this opinion leaves open the possibility for patenting pure software algorithms. To not do so, the Supreme Court reasoned, might prevent unknown future technologies of importance from being patented. (The ambiguity is meant to error on the side of the unknown.)
Listen to, or read the discussion for yourself.