Personal tools
You are here: Home FSF files brief in Bilski case calling on the Supreme Court to eliminate software patents
  • Please translate pages from in any Indian language and submit them for inclusion here.
  • Report news items about free software for publication.
  • Organize events and workshops in your area.
  • Campaign for Associate Fellowships.
freedom fighters required!
Sister Organizations

FSF files brief in Bilski case calling on the Supreme Court to eliminate software patents

BOSTON, Massachusetts, USA -- Friday, October 2, 2009 -- The Free
Software Foundation (FSF) today submitted an amicus curiae brief
calling on the Supreme Court to affirm that software ideas are not
patentable.  After outlining the positive impact that the free
software movement and the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL) have
had on computer use, the brief explains how software patents are an
obstacle and a danger to software developers.

FSF founder Richard Stallman and the free software movement have been
campaigning worldwide against software patents since the late 1980s,
but the effort in the United States is coming to a head with the
Supreme Court now reviewing patentable scope for the first time since
1981's *Diamond v. Diehr* case.

End Software Patents (ESP) executive director Ciaran O'Riordan
explained, "Every software patent is a restriction on software
developers and users of computers, and there are currently 200,000
software patents in the USA. As well as being an unjust restriction on
a common household tool, time has now also proven software patents to
be an economic failure and a hindrance to the progress of the useful
arts. This means they've failed their constitutional mandate and have
no legal legitimacy. The Supreme Court has itself never authorized the
patenting of software ideas, so there's real hope that this problem
can finally be solved."

O'Riordan credited the wiki contributors for their help,
saying, "Much of the material for this brief came from our publicly
editable wiki at For each point we decided to make, we used
the wiki to find references and quotes and further information -- and
I hope other brief drafters found it useful too. Contributing to this
resource is a great way for people to get involved in the campaign --
the Bilski case will continue for months, and there is still much work
to be done to eliminate software patents worldwide."

The 44-page brief further details the commonly noted outrageous risks
and expenses imposed by patents, which leave individuals and small
projects particularly vulnerable, but also highlights the deeper
injustices: "This inability to participate on an even basis amplifies
the problem, but there is also a deeper problem: losing control of
one’s computing in his or her daily life. Because individuals can
write software, they can help themselves and solve their own problems.
Given that software development includes common activities such as
making a webpage, the freedom to use a computer as you see fit for
your daily life is a fundamental form of expression, just as using a
pen and paper is. ... In the context of writing an email reader, a
word processor, or an image viewer, being blocked from reading,
modifying, or writing in the required data format is equivalent to
being banned from writing a functional program for that task."

In April of 2008, FSF worked with the End Software Patents (ESP)
campaign to file an amicus curiae brief in the Court of Appeals for
the Federal Circuit's (CAFC) hearing of the *in re Bilski* case. In
October 2008, the CAFC issued its ruling, which gutted patents on
program ideas running on general-purpose computers. In June of this
year, the Supreme Court decided to review the case.

The full text of the brief is available online at

More information about the briefs which have been submitted is
available at

### About the End Software Patents campaign

End Software Patents is a project formed to eliminate patents for
software and other designs with no physically innovative step. It
promotes a US technology-development environment which will drive
innovation and growth in the global marketplace. End Software Patents
receives sponsorship from the Free Software Foundation. For more
information on participating in the project, or to access its
knowledge base, please visit its website at

### Media Contacts

Ciaran O'Riordan
Executive Director, End Software Patents
+32 487 64 17 54
esp (at)


Document Actions