Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Bilsky Taken Up By Supreme Court

Will the Scope of Patent Eleigible Subject Matter be Redefined?

In a decision that is viewed as a bit of a surprise to many, the Supreme Court has granted certiorari in Bilsky v. Doll, U.S. No. 08-964, to review the en banc Federal Circuit decision which held that “[a] claimed process is surely patent-eligible under §101 if it is (1) ties to a particular machine or apparatus, or (2) it transforms a particular article into a different state or thing.” (In re Bilsky, 545 F.3d 943 (Fed. Cir. 2008))

The Bilsky decision, which appears to define a bright line test for patent eligible subject matter, fails to provide guidance in some important areas. For example, is a general purpose computer operating with unique software a “particular apparatus”? Also, can the transformation of data alone qualify as “transform[ing] a particular article into a different state or thing"? With these questions unanswered, the impact of Bilsky’s “machine-or-transformation” test has been most significant in the software and business method sectors, with §101 rejections being more common from the USPTO and §101 now being a real and viable defense in patent litigation. Indeed, the court in the Middle District of Florida just recently invalidated an asserted patent under 35 U.S.C. § 101 in the case of Every Penny Counts, Inc. v. Bank of America Corp., 07-CV-0042.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear two questions:

(1) Whether the Federal Circuit erred by holding that a “process” must be tied to a particular machine or apparatus, or transform a particular article into a different state or thing (“machine-or-transformation” test), to be eligible for patenting under 35 U.S.C. §101, despite this Court's precedent declining to limit the broad statutory grant of patent eligibility for “any” new and useful process beyond excluding patents for “laws of nature, physical phenomena, and abstract ideas.”

(2) Whether the Federal Circuit's “machine-or-transformation” test for patent eligibility, which effectively forecloses meaningful patent protection to many business methods, contradicts the clear Congressional intent that patents protect “method[s] of doing or conducting business.” 35 U.S.C. §273.

Where will this lead? Good question. The Supreme Court has not been particularly kind to patent owners and broad patent rights in its recent decisions. Then again, the Supreme Court has not been particularly kind to the Federal Circuit either. Its past decisions over the years on the question of patentable subject matter, however, tend to avoid bright line standards and lean towards a more liberal scope of patentable subject matter, but certainly don’t embrace the scope of “anything under the sun made by man” as the Court once suggested. Merely taking the case, however, means that a definitional moment in the area of patentable subject matter is likely on the horizon. Now, its time for the waiting to begin and for the amici to enter the fray.

1 comment:

  1. Super blog and nice writings

    Thanks for all posts

    Thanks in advance for coming posts...

    Keep writing...............


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