U.S. Supreme Court Affirms Business Method Patents

By Pike, George H. | Information Today, September 2010 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

U.S. Supreme Court Affirms Business Method Patents


Pike, George H., Information Today


Even after the U.S. Supreme Court's long-awaited decision in the Bilski patent dispute, the viability of business method patents remains somewhat uncertain. In a complex and split decision released on the last day of the court's session, the Supreme Court affirmed the basic legality of business method patents. However, the court also rejected the specific business method patent that Bilski was pursing as an unpatentable "abstract idea."

Business method patents have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years. The U.S. Patent Act indicates the "processes)" can be patented, as long as they are nonobvious, novel, and can be particularly described. In recent years, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has granted patents to a number of methods of doing business that use a specific process, particularly those that involve computer technology. In granting a patent to a particular process for doing business, the patent award excludes anyone else from doing business in the same manner, otherwise they would be infringing on the patent. Critics of business method patents, particularly those in the e-commerce area, argue that they are often too broad, or are not novel, and rely less on technology and more on thought processes that are not patentable.

Bernard Bilski sought a patent on a method of hedging risk in commodities markets through a series of steps that collected and analyzed costs, weather reports, and economical and statistical data to predict a certain outcome. The patent application was rejected by the initial patent ex aminer as well as the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed the rejection of Bilski's application but also determined that a business method patent required some form of "machine or transformation" as part of the process. Without a machine or transformation, business methods were not patentable. This decision was seen as a potential deathblow for business method patents since many of them do not use any kind of specific machine (using a computer to do calculations may not be considered a "specific" enough machine) or transform a particular article from one thing to another.

Bilski appealed this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a series of overlapping opinions, the Supreme Court rejected the machine or transformation requirement, saying that, while the machine or transformation test was a "useful and important clue," the test could not be a condition or "sole test" for determining patentability.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

U.S. Supreme Court Affirms Business Method Patents
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?