U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court Says Some Business Methods May Be Patented, But Not Bilski Method


The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that some business methods may be patented, but not a method of hedging risk in commodities trading that was at issue in Bilski v. Kappos (PDF).

The court said the Patent Act does not automatically exclude business methods from being patented, SCOTUSblog reports. The court said the “machine or transformation test”—which requires business methods to be tied to a machine or to produce some physical transformation to be eligible for a patent—is not the only test to determine whether business methods may be patented, the blog says.

“This court’s precedents establish that the machine-or transformation test is a useful and important clue, an investigative tool, for determining whether some claimed inventions are processes” under the patent law, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. But “the machine-or transformation test is not the sole test for deciding whether an invention is a patent-eligible ‘process.’ ”

Although some business methods are allowed, the patent sought for hedging risk must fail, Kennedy said.” The patent application here can be rejected under our precedents on the unpatentability of abstract ideas,” he wrote.

Forbes’ On the Docket blog calls the ruling “an anticlimactic end to a case whose decision was so long delayed that some speculated the justices were deadlocked over how far to rein in what some see as an out-of-control patent process. Instead, the court rejected a narrow test that would require patents to involve a machine or transformation of matter and merely said patents can’t cover an abstract idea.”

The Patently-O blog says it appears that software will “largely remain patentable” under the ruling.

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