Oral argument: Nov. 9, 2009
Appealed from: United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Oct. 30, 2008)
PATENT LAW, PATENTABLE SUBJECT MATTER, INVENTIONS, INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY, MACHINE-OR-TRANSFORMATION TEST
In 1997, the United States Patent and Trademark Office denied Bernard Bilski's patent application for a method of hedging risk in commodities trading. Affirming the rejection on appeal, the Federal Circuit held that a process must be tied to a particular machine or transform an article into a different state to be patentable. The Supreme Court will consider the validity of the machine-or-transformation test for patentability. This case will have implications for the validity of current process patents as well as the availability of future patent protection for business methods. If the court decides that business-methods are not patentable, this would invalidate numerous patents and may curb innovation in the biotechnology and software industry. If, however, the court overturns the machine-or-transformation test and declares that Bilski’s idea is patent-eligible, expensive litigation may continue and uncertainty will mount regarding business-method patents.