I have talked before – probably too much – on this blog about patents, patent reform, and the fact that the courts are in the process, as far as I am concerned, of reigning in what some see as abuse in the patent system and in patent infringement litigation against large technology and other companies. Of particular note, I have written before about the particular question of whether ERISA strategies should be subject to patent, and, as I discussed in a BNA article on the subject, I don’t run with those who think business method patents should be pushed that far. The Wall Street Journal law blog has an interesting post today that touches on all of this, in particular on a new appellate decision concerning business method patents that may well drive the final nail in the coffin on the idea of patenting ERISA strategies. As that blog puts it: “Legal experts say the court’s ruling . . .may make it more difficult to obtain and enforce business-method patents, which are granted for abstract processes rather than specific devices. . . .The decision suggests that business-method patents will now be considered invalid unless the invention has a practical application and can be linked to a particular technology, such as a computer. The court said that ‘mental processes—or processes of human thinking—standing alone aren’t patentable even if they have practical application.’" Seems to me that ERISA strategies fall exactly within that category of unpatentable mental processes. In fact, frankly, if you read the opinion itself, it is pretty doggone clear that ERISA strategy patents, as distinct from patents involving computer processes for managing ERISA claims for example, should never have been granted, and won’t be in the future.