(Your honor, I would like to offer this t-shirt of XKCD's classic comic as evidence prior art. Mark it as Exhibit A for the defense.)
Advocates of free software have used the case to urge the courts to eliminate software patents, although the appellate court In Re Bilski only limited them. Groklaw may hope the utter bogusity of the sudo patent will prod the Supremes to sing the song their way.
One might also argue, however, that the case argues for better funding at the patent office, and patent examiners with an understanding of prior art.
The Unix version of Sudo (pronounced sue-doo) is freeware. (Red Hat attorneys are probably thinking just that of Microsoft's lawyers right about now. Oh sue, do.)
The patent describes how Microsoft does Sudo through a program called Runas, but then adds this:
Although the invention has been described in language specific to structural features and/or methodological steps, it is to be understood that the invention defined in the appended claims is not necessarily limited to the specific features or steps described. Rather, the specific features and steps are disclosed as preferred forms of implementing the claimed invention.
This is lawyer speak for Clint Eastwood telling the bad guy, "feeling lucky, punk?" To which Linux lawyers might respond, "Go ahead. Make my day."
My apologies for the puns. The whole issue makes me feel dirty, Harry.