I've been following the progress of In Re Bilski before the US Supreme Court, because it's got the potential to set the rules for business method (and thus software) patents for the next few years.
Unfortunately, it seems that lawyers' view of what constitutes a "good" patent has hit a new and hilarious low. Take this extract from the oral arguments (thanks to Groklaw for pointing it out):
JUSTICE KENNEDY: But it would be different, it seems to me, than what you are -- let's assume you can't patent an alphabet. I assume that is true. And you can take an alphabet to make beautiful words, and -- and so forth. You -- you want to say that these -- these electronic signals can be used in a way just like the alphabet can be used. And many of the scientific briefs say that their process is different, that they are taking electronic signals and turning them into some other sort of signal. But that's not what you are doing.
MR. JAKES: That may be, but those signals could also be transmitted. On -- on your question about the alphabet you said look at the Morse claim 5, which was an alphabet to Morse Code. That's exactly what it was.
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: So you reject -- you reject the substitute. You think you can patent an alphabet because it is a process of forming words.
MR. JAKES: It could be, yes.
In what world does this seem like a sane and reasonable way for patentability rules to evolve?