The U.S. Supreme Court recently announced it will hear arguments over whether the technology company Alice Corp can own an "invention" for escrow accounts. The issue is, when are business methods that are implemented through computer software eligible for review under patent law? The Alice case raises fundamental questions about what software- and business methods-related items should receive patent protection, and it comes at a time when the Court is increasingly rejecting patent grants.

Ballard Spahr partner Brian W. LaCorte, an intellectual property attorney and patent litigator, said, "Software or business method patents are typically broad patents that often cover basic methods of doing business." Mr. LaCorte is unconvinced about patents that describe using a computer to implement traditional ideas such as escrow accounts.

Experts believe the Supreme Court is unlikely to outlaw software patents altogether, but will probably instead issue rules that make it easier to challenge them.

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Intellectual Property