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Denial of Commodities Trading-Related Patent Application Affirmed

By FindLaw Staff on June 28, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Bilski v. Kappos, No. 08-964, involved a patent application seeking protection for a claimed invention explaining how commodities buyers and sellers in the energy market could protect, or hedge, against the risk of price changes.  The Court affirmed the denial of the application, holding that 1) the machine-or-transformation test is not the sole test for patent eligibility under 35 U.S.C. section 101; 2) Section 101 precluded a reading of the term "process" that would categorically exclude business methods; and 3) even though petitioners' application was not categorically outside of section 101 under the two atextual approaches the Court rejected today, that did not mean it was a "process" under section 101.

As the Court wrote:  "The question in this case turns on whether a patent can be issued for a claimed invention designed for the business world. The patent application claims a procedure for instructing buyers and sellers how to protect against the risk of price fluctuations in a discrete section of the economy. Three arguments are advanced for the proposition that the claimed invention is outside the scope of patent law: (1) it is not tied to a machine and does not transform an article; (2) it involves a method of conducting business; and (3) it is merely an abstract idea. The Court of Appeals ruled that the first mentioned of these, the so-called machine-or-transformation test, was the sole test to be used for determining the patentability of a "process" under the Patent Act, 35 U. S. C. §101."

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