Court to Consider When Software Can Be Patented

A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., will hear arguments Friday over a fundamental question that has vexed the technology industry for nearly two decades: When is a piece of software patentable?

The issue has created a curious split in the technology sector. On one side lie technology giants such as Google Inc., Facebook Inc. and Intuit Inc., which largely believe the Patent & Trademark Office has issued too many software patents in recent years and would like to see courts apply a more exacting standard when reviewing them.

On the other lies a collection of big and small technology companies and patent holders, including International Business Machines Corp., which contend that tighter standards on software patents could hinder innovation.

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