Bilski’s Impact On Software Patents

This post comes courtesy of our friends at DLA Piper, J.D. Harriman (Partner in DLA Piper’s Los Angeles office) and Robert Buergi (Senior Associate in DLA Piper’s Silicon Valley office).

Bilski is a favorable decision for software patents—it broadened patentable processes beyond those that meet the machine or transformation test, and expressly recognized that even some business methods are patentable.  Overall, Bilski will allow properly drafted software method claims to enjoy patentability for years to come.

In the majority opinion, the Court discussed the country’s shift from the Industrial Age to the Information Age, the former being characterized by traditional machines and the latter being characterized by, for example, computer programs.  Bilski v. Kappos, 130 S. Ct. 3218, 3227 (2010).  Determining patentability of processes using solely the machine or transformation test “would create uncertainty as to the patentability of software.” Id. (more…)

Bilski v. Kappos: Summary And Implications


Written by Andrea M. Augustine (Partner at Foley & Lardner LLP and faculty member for the upcoming PLI Patent Litigation program) and Kevin J. Malaney (Associate at Foley & Lardner LLP)

On June 28, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its much anticipated opinion in Bilski v. Kappos.  In Bilski, the Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, In re Bilski, 545 F.3d 943 (Fed. Cir. 2008) (en banc), that the claims in question did not qualify for patent protection.  In doing so, the Court unanimously rejected the Federal Circuit’s determination that the “machine-or-transformation” test was the exclusive test for “process” patent eligibility.  But instead of establishing what test should be applied in future cases, the Court left this question open and simply relied on previous Supreme Court case law and the Patent Act to hold Applicants’ claims ineligible for patent protection.  Despite the uncertainty regarding the appropriate test, Bilski does provides some guidance as to what “process” claims are eligible for patent protection.  Because of the open questions that remain, future cases will be closely watched and studied for clarification and application of the Court’s holdings.  In the meantime, observers, advocates, and pundits will review the fine details and history of In re Bilski in search of guidance on the future of business method patents and patent applications. (more…)

BILSKI: Where Do We Go From Here?

The following guest post comes from  Kenneth Nigon, Practice Manager for the Patent Preparation and Prosecution Group at RatnerPrestia and PLI Faculty member.

On Tuesday, July 27, the USPTO published its Interim Guidance for Determining Subject Matter Eligibility for Process Claims in view of Bilski v. Kappos (“Interim Bilski Guidance”).  This Guidance supplements the Interim Examination Instructions for Evaluating Subject Matter Eligibility Under 35 U.S.C. § 101 (“Interim Instructions”), published on August 24, 2009 and the memorandum to the Patent Examining Corps on the Supreme Court Decision in Bilski v Kappos published on June 28, 2010 (“Bilski Memorandum”).

The Bilski Memorandum instructs the examiners to reject method claims that do not meet the requirements of the Machine or Transformation (MoT) test formulated by the Federal Circuit in In re Bilski 545 F.3d 943 (Fed. Cir. 2008).  The Interim Bilski Guidance modifies these instructions to require examiners to apply a balancing test which weighs factors both in favor of and opposed to patent eligibility and directs examiners to consider all requirements for patentability in the interest of compact prosecution.

The factors weighing in favor of eligibility of a claim include that it:

  • passes the MoT test,
  • is directed toward the application of a law of nature and
  • is more than a mere statement of a concept. (more…)

Bilski Aftermath: Will Europe’s “Technical Effect” Test Become the Law in the U.S.?

Robert Hulse, of Fenwick & West LLP, Practice Center Contributor and PLI Faculty member, discusses what the future may look like for business method patents:

I think most patent practitioners and applicants who have been following this case believe that we dodged a bullet, as the Court’s decision was about as good as could have been expected.  The Court removed the Federal Circuit’s overly rigid application of the machine-or-transformation (MOT) test as the sole test for patent eligible-subject matter, but it retained the test as a useful indication of whether a claim meets the subject matter requirement.  (In this respect, the Bilski decision is much like the Court’s decision in KSR a few years ago, where the court kept the teaching-suggestion-motivation (TSM) test, but held that it was just one of many useful ways to evaluate a claim for its compliance with the nonobviousness requirement.)  The benefit to applicants is that we can continue to rely on compliance with the MOT test by reciting a machine or transformation, subject to the “post solution activity” and “meaningful limits” considerations, while not being completely constrained by that test.

The Court also declined to exclude business methods from patent-eligible subject matter, although four justices (including Stevens, who is leaving the Court) would have done so.  This means that companies who innovate to create new ways of conducting business can continue to protect their inventions.  Excluding business methods for patent-eligible subject matter would have created more problems than it solved, not the least of which would have been how to define a “business method.” (more…)

Supreme Court Rules that Business Methods May be Patentable

Guest Post by Trevor Carter (partner at  Baker & Daniels ,Practice Center Contributor and PLI Faculty Member) and Daniel M. Lechleiter ( associate at Baker & Daniels)

On June 28, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Bilski v. Kappos, an important case involving whether patent claims directed to so-called “business methods” are patentable under U.S. patent law.  The case involved a patent application that claimed a method of hedging against the risk of price changes in the energy market.  The claims described a series of steps instructing how to hedge risk, as well as the same concept embodied in a mathematical formula.  The U.S. Patent Office and all of the lower courts rejected the application as unpatentable, and, because it found that the claims pertain to an “abstract idea,” the Supreme Court agreed.

But, far short of providing clear guidance on how to determine whether a given business method is patentable, the Supreme Court provided high level guidance and left future case by case determinations to lower courts.  Thus, while the case makes clear that certain business methods can be patentable, with the exception of very general guidance found in the Patent Act and three of the Court’s prior decisions, it leaves wide open the question of how to distinguish patent-eligible business methods from ineligible ones.  This will undoubtedly lead to further litigation and legal experimentation in the lower courts, as they attempt to determine how and where to draw the line between patentable and unpatentable business methods. (more…)