Brief Filed in Microsoft v. AT&T
NEW YORK, December 15, 2006 -- The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC),
provider of pro-bono legal services to protect and advance Free and
Open Source Software, today filed a brief with the United States
Supreme Court arguing against the patenting of software.
In the case Microsoft v. AT&T, the Supreme Court will decide whether
U.S. patents can apply to software that is copied and distributed
overseas. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, a specialized
patent court known for allowing patents on software and business
methods, originally decided in favor of AT&T, expanding the
international reach of U.S. software patents. Microsoft appealed, and
the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.
In its brief, SFLC argues that software copied and distributed outside
the United States cannot infringe U.S. patents. The brief also argues
that the Federal Circuit's decisions declaring software to be
patentable subject matter conflict with Supreme Court precedent and,
as such, should be overruled.
"I expect many people will be surprised that the Software Freedom Law
Center has filed a brief with the Supreme Court in support of
Microsoft," said Daniel Ravicher, SFLC Legal Director. "In this
specific case, Microsoft and SFLC are both supporting the position
that U.S. software patents have no right to cover activity outside of
the United States, especially in places that have specifically
rejected software patents."
In Supreme Court decisions, the explanation for deciding a case is
almost always more important than the outcome of the particular case
at hand. In this case, the Court's decision will determine whether
U.S. software patents can be used to restrict software development,
distribution and use throughout the rest of the world. The ruling may
also decide whether software patents are even legally allowed to exist
in the United States.
"In contrast to the Federal Circuit, the Supreme Court has maintained
limits on patentable subject matter throughout U.S. history," said
Eben Moglen, Executive Director of SFLC. "The Supreme Court has
consistently ruled that algorithms and mathematics cannot be
patented. Since software is expressed as mathematical algorithms, it
should not be patentable."
Software patents are an important issue for developers and users of
Free and Open Source Software. The Software Freedom Law Center, along
with other organizations, hosted a conference at MIT and Boston
University in November that addressed the legal, economic and social
consequences of software patents.
SFLC's brief is available on the Web at
About the Software Freedom Law Center
The Software Freedom Law Center -- chaired by Eben Moglen, one of the
world's leading experts on copyright law as applied to software --
provides legal representation and other law-related services to
protect and advance Free and Open Source Software. The Law Center is
dedicated to assisting non-profit open source developers and projects.
For criteria on eligibility and to apply for assistance, please
contact the Law Center directly or visit the Web at
Public Relations Coordinator
Software Freedom Law Center