Bilski v. Kappos (KyleR)

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Bilski v. Kappos


  • patent application at issue:
    • how commodities buyers and sellers in the energy market can hedge against risk of price changes
      • Claim 1: series of steps for how to hedge risk
      • Claim 4: places Claim 1 into a mathematical formula
  • patent application denied by patent examiner, Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences agreed, Federal Circuit agreed, Supreme Court agreed
  • Federal Circuit says a process is patent eligible if it:
    1. is tied to a particular machine or apparatus,
    2. transforms an article into a different state or thing
  • Supreme Court denies patent eligibility because it constitutes an abstract idea
    • Court does not need to define further what constitutes a patentable process

Opinion of Court (Kennedy)

  • Court precedents provide three exceptions to Section 101's patent-eligibility principles:
    • "laws of nature, physical phenomena, and abstract ideas"
  • definition of "process" (Section 100(b)):
    • a process is a "process, art or method, and included a new use of a known process, machine, manufacture, composition of matter, or material"
  • machine-or-transformation test as sole test for what constitutes a process is wrong
    • Court is unaware of any "ordinary, contemporary, common meaning" of the work "process" that requires it be linked to a machine or transformation
  • Court is unaware of any "ordinary, contemporary, common meaning" of the work "method" that would exclude business methods from patent eligibility
  • this particular claim is not patentable subject matter because it is an abstract idea

Concurring opinion (Stevens)

  • wants to "restore patent law to its historical and constitutional moorings."
  • any series of steps that is not an abstract idea should not constitute a "process"
    • business methods, for instance
  • Court did not provide a satisfactory description of what constitutes an unpatentable abstract idea
  • the term "process" has a unique meaning in patent law
    • cannot define "process" based on contextual clues because the definition includes the term "process"
    • must look to history to define "process"
      • history has always held that a method of doing business is not a process

Concurring opinion (Breyer)

  • agrees with Stevens that business methods are not patentable processes

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