Gottschalk v. Benson (JWB Class)

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The Case

  • People have a right to question validity of patent, because PTO makes mistakes, so people infringe and take it to court. There is an equal right to question invalidity of patent application, but there is a different route to do so. Option is offered to appeal to court (Court of Customs and Patent Appeals – CCPA).
  • BCD – binary coded decimal – can represent any number with sets of four 0’s and 1’s
  • Claim 8 – converts BCD back to actual number
  • PTO denied patent, but CCPA granted it
  • Supreme Court reversed (denied patent)
    • cannot patent an algorithm
    • an idea itself is not patentable
      • phenomena of nature, mental processes, and abstract intellectual concepts are the foundations of science (and themselves are not patentable)
      • taking away these ‘first principles’, everyone else is blocked out from further progressing

Inventions Patentable

  • “Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title.” 35 U.S.C. 101
  • ‘process’ is the key word of interest

In 101

  • structure created with the knowledge of scientific truth
  • application of the phenomena of nature
  • a process resulting in physical changes in articles or materials

Not in 101

  • scientific truth
  • mathematical expressions of scientific truth
  • idea (reduction to practice – if two people have the same idea, the first one to put it to practice gets the patent)
  • phenomena of nature (even newly discovered)