Talk:In Re Bilski, Dky concurring opinion

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Maura

In fact, the unpatentability of processes not involving manufactures, machines, or compositions of matter has been firmly embedded in the statute since the time of the Patent Act of 1793, ch. 11, 1 Stat. 318 (1793). It is our dissenting colleagues who would legislate by expanding patentable subject matter far beyond what is allowed by the statute.

The English practice in 1793, imported into the American statutes, explicitly recognized a limit on patentable subject matter. As the Supreme Court recounted in Graham v. John Deere, the English concern about limiting the allowable scope of patents arose from an aversion to the odious Crown practice of granting patents on particular types of businesses to court favorites.

The question remains as to what processes were considered to be patentable in England at the time of the 1793 Act. Examination of the relevant sources leads to the conclusion that the method Bilski seeks to claim would not have been considered patentable subject matter as a process under the English statute.

There is no suggestion in any of this early consideration of process patents that processes for organizing human activity were or ever had been patentable. Rather, the uniform assumption was that the only processes that were patentable were processes for using or creating manufactures, machines, and compositions of matter.

To be sure, Congress intended the courts to have some latitude in interpreting § 101 to cover emerging technologies, Chakrabarty, 447 U.S. at 316, 100 S.Ct. 2204, and the categorical terms chosen are sufficiently broad to encompass a wide range of new technologies. But there is no evidence that Congress intended to confer upon the courts latitude to extend the categories of patentable subject matter in a significant way. To the contrary, the Supreme Court made clear that “Congress has performed its constitutional role in defining patentable subject matter in § 101; we perform ours in construing the language Congress has employed. In so doing, our obligation is to take statutes as we find them, guided, if ambiguity appears, by the legislative history and statutory purpose.”

It refers to things “made by man,” not to methods of organizing human activity. In this respect, the language is reminiscent of the 1799 use of the phrase “something made by the hands of man” by Chief Justice Lord Kenyon as a limitation on patentable subject matter under the Statute of Monopolies. The idea that an invention must be “made by man” was used to distinguish “a philosophical principle only, neither organized or capable of being organized” from a patentable manufacture.

In short, the history of § 101 fully supports the majority's holding that Bilski's claim does not recite patentable subject matter. Our decision does not reflect “legislative” work, but rather careful and respectful adherence to the Congressional purpose.