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Supreme Court Issues Ruling in Bilski Patent Case

[Edit] For a more comprehensive analysis of the Bilski decision, see my most recent post.

The Supreme Court today issued the most eagerly anticipated patent ruling in over a decade. Bilski v. Kappos tackles the issue of exactly what type of “software” is patentable. More specifically, whether to be eligible for patent protection under 35 U.S.C. § 101, a “process” must be tied to a particular machine or apparatus, or transform a particular article into a different state or thing.

The ruling in Bilski is a rather complex analysis of some rather subtle aspects of patent law and prior case law. If you are not familiar with patent law, I suggest you read the Patent FAQ. If you are not familiar with the arguments in Bilski, I suggest you read this analysis of the written and oral argument. For everything else Bilski related, check out the SCOTUS wiki.

The Opinion
Affirming the Federal Circuit decision in Bilski, the Supreme Court held that while the machine or transformation (MoT) test is a useful and important investigative tool, it is not the sole determination of patentability. The Court held that while the Bilski process is not categorically excluded from patentability, the particular process of Bilski is not patentable.

I am currently digesting the remainder of the 71 page ruling, and will follow up this post with a more comprehensive analysis of what the ruling in Bilski v. Kappos means not only for existing business method patents, but for the future of business method patentability. You can read the entire Bilski opinion at the Supreme Court website.

Brett Trout

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