Gottschalk v. Benson (901422128)

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Read for 2/7/11

Reading Notes

  • Benson filed a patent for a method for converting numerical information from binary-coded decimal numbers into pure binary numbers
    • Ruled as merely a series of mathematical calculations or mental steps
  • Claims were not limited to any specific machine, technology, use, etc.
  • Need to determine if the method described is a "process"
    • The procedure in the present claim is an algorithm
  • The conversion from BCD to pure binary can be done mentally using a table
    • This method varies the ordinary human steps by changing the order and symbolism and by taking subtotals after each operation
  • Cite previous examples of including a law into a process
    • Claims need to be limited to a specific arrangement of machinery or something similar

Laws of patentability

  • Phenomena of nature, mental processes, and abstract intellectual concepts cannot be patented
    • A novel and useful structure created with the air of one of these may be patentable
  • The key to the patentability of a process which does not involve a specific machine is

A process is a mode of treatment of certain materials to produce a given result. It is an act, or a series of acts, performed upon the subject-matter to be transformed and reduced to a different state or thing.

    • Process patent must either use a particular machine or apparatus or must change the articles or materials to a different state or thing
  • Creation of programs has grown substantially without patent protection

Class Notes

  • Benson had patent for computer program, Gottschalk was the Patent Commissioner who denied him a patent
    • Can appeal applications during the process and take it to the appeals within the PTO
  • Claims 8 and 13 are in question
    • Converted BCD to pure binary
  • Won at the appellate level but the patent was then rejected by the USSC
    • Cannot patent an algorithm
  • Decided in 1972
  • Decided that the claim was just too broad and fundamental
    • A process without a specific application is usually not good
  • Talk about the President’s Commission
    • Basically they don’t have the ability to examine computer programs, so they are unpatentable

Patentable Subject Matter

  • Section 101 lays out what is patentable – process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter
    • More recently standards have said everything is more or less patentable under 101
  • Things that cannot be patented for risk that they impede the promotion of useful arts
    • Ideas (reduction to practice)
    • Natural phenomena
      • Even if newly discovered
    • Scientific truth
    • Mathematical expression
  • Things that can be patented under 101
    • ’’’Structure’’’ created with knowledge of above
    • ’’’Application’’’ of the laws
    • A process resulting in physical changes
  • Science has a natural set of building blocks but the promotion should occur at the next level
  • Dividing line between a process that is or is not patentable is the application
  • The existence of first principles (basic laws) provides starting points for further invention
    • Taking these away reduces the ability of others to build upon
  • Talk about the President’s Commission
    • Basically they don’t have the ability to examine computer programs, so they are unpatentable