Currently US law states that patent protetion is available to anyone who “invents or discovers a new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter”. The legal question boils down to how innovative does an invention have to be before it receives legal protection?
Software patents have been previosuly granted via the USPTO are for the implementation of something through software. It is also known as a “business process”. Amazon, Apple and itunes all have licensing deals in place for various patents. The big difference between Europe ( which does not like software patents) and the US is that the former will allow a patent where the applicaton causes a physical change to the invention.
The decision is expected in June when the nine justices will provide their reasoning but it will be followed with great interest on both sides of the pond.