In the USA, Alice Corp. had a patent for a computerised method of reducing “settlement risk”, a type of escrow arrangement: the 10 judges in the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals came up with 5 different opinions of which Justice Newman memorably said:
[The 5 judgments have] propounded at least three incompatible standards, devoid of consensus, serving simply to add to the unreliability and cost of the system of patents as an incentive for innovation. With today’s judicial deadlock, the only assurance is that any successful innovation is likely to be challenged in opportunistic litigation, whose result will depend on the random selection of the panel.
Now, the US Supreme Court has agreed to try to sort it out.
ALICE CORPORATION PTY. LTD. V. CLS BANK INTERNATIONAL, ET AL., Docket No. 13–298 (Supreme Court 2013) via Patently-O