Not too long ago, getting patents on software and business methods was all the rage. And concern about their effects was profound. In fact, in 2003 I spoke at a Federal Reserve Bank conference devoted to the question of whether such patents were an existential threat to the financial industry. Now, after a series of Supreme Court cases that brought about a dramatic shift in the approach taken by the lower courts and the Patent Office, the question is whether those patents are still alive. The answer is that they are, but barely, and their prognosis is bad.
Do these developments matter to people in the life sciences? The answer is a resounding yes. If we then ask why software patentability matters, the answer is that life sciences are increasingly focused on software-dependent data analysis.
These points were brought home to me when I spoke at another, more recent conference—the Bio-IT World Conference in Boston this past April.
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