Wednesday, 08 July 2009 18:30


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The recent Federal Circuit decision in In re Bilski last October has begun to cause some concern in the biotech sector. As we have reported in previous blog entries, Bilski created a new test for method claims in patents, requiring a claimed process to be tied to a machine or apparatus, or to transform an article into a different state or thing (see blogs “In re Bilski: What Constitutes a Statutory ‘Process’ Under §101?” posted 11/5/08, “Supreme Court To Review Method Patent Case” posted 6/2/09, and “More on Bilski and Business Method Patents” posted 6/3/09). Even though the technology in Bilski was not scientific in nature, some are concerned that the precedent set by this case could have ramifications for the biotech sector since many issued biotech patents and pending biotech patent applications, such as, but not limited to, certain processes for genetic testing, do not rely on a machine or transformation.   As we await the U.S. Supreme Court hearing in October, we hope that the potential application of Bilski to the biotech sector will be addressed by the Bench.

Patenting living organisms has been permitted since the Supreme Court’s decision in Diamond v. Chakrabarty in 1980. Whether this precedent will apply to gene patents remains to be seen. To date, the most controversial dispute in this arena involves gene patents related to breast and ovarian cancer.
In May, the ACLU and others filed suit against Myriad Genetics, Inc., The University of Utah Research Foundation, and the United States Patent & Trademark Office challenging the validity of various patents for the two human genes BRCA1 and BRCA2. The complaint lists patients and researchers who have been restricted or prevented access to these genes for disease diagnosis, research, or other clinical applications. The lawsuit, Association for Molecular Pathology, et al. v. United States Patent and Trademark Office, et al., filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleges certain claims of eight patents exclusively licensed to Myriad Genetics are (1) invalid under Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution and 35 U.S.C. § 101 for patenting “products of nature, laws of nature and/or natural phenomena,” and (2) unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution for being “patents on abstract ideas or basic human knowledge and/or thought.”  Given the many issues raised by this case and the effect it could have on gene patenting, we will be following this case closely. (Click here to follow the progress of the case).
Friday, 26 June 2009 18:28


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Many titles were bestowed upon Michael Jackson during his lifetime, but one not commonly associated with him was "inventor".  

But indeed, The King of Pop is listed as a co-inventor of United States Patent Number 5,255,452, entitled "METHOD AND MEANS FOR CREATING ANTI-GRAVITY ILLUSION", and covering shoes of the type worn while performing dance routines in his hit single "Smooth Criminal", where he famously incorporated a 45-degree lean in the choreography.


In April of 2009, a federal jury in the District of Rhode Island determined that Microsoft Corp. had infringed U.S. Patent Number 5,490,216 (the ‘216 patent). Accordingly, the jury found that Microsoft owed $388 Million in damages to Uniloc USA, Inc. and Uniloc Singapore Private Limited, who held rights in the ‘216 patent.  For a general article on this case, click here.

Given that an asserted patent such as the‘216 patent can be subject to a wide variety of attacks during litigation, when such patents survive litigation and are found to be infringed, they may point to good examples of claim drafting -- especially when enormously large amounts of damages were at stake. 

Wednesday, 03 June 2009 18:24


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As noted below, On October 30, 2009, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit rejected a business-method patent on the basis of the machine-or-transformation test (opinion). The widely varying dissents of the en banc decision suggest much contradiction among the respective justices, from comments indicating that either the majority goes too far or not far enough in restricting the use of these patents. Meritorious arguments submitted by amicus also advocate a multitude of policy considerations. On June 1st, the Supreme Court grantedcertiorari to review the decision, perhaps in response to the extent of the important implications that this case entails.

Those seeking to expand business-method patents cite economics as a “useful art” and explain that these patents encourage innovation and produce tangible results. Conversely, opponents indicate that the patents curtail the free-flow of information and claim abstract ideas, both contrary to the goals of patent protection. Certainly, the Court will seek to balance the interests of both inventors and the public, which benefits from the increased societal knowledge that patents provide. But, as of now, the Court of Appeals’ decision seemingly puts the property rights of many business-method patent-holders in jeopardy with both the legal and business worlds taking note and this being heralded by some as "The most important patent case in 50 years" (link). 

Sebastian Ohanian Contributed to this Entry.

Tuesday, 02 June 2009 18:22


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The Supreme Court of the United States has decided to review the federal appellate court decision of In re Bilski, a seminal decision concerning method patents, in which the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit proposed a "machine-or-transformation" test for determining whether a process or method was capable of being patented. 

The Supreme Court's docket reveals that the "Questions Presented" for this appeal (as framed by the party seeking review, in this case the patent applicant), are the following:

Whether the Federal Circuit erred by holding that a "process" must be tied to a particular machine or apparatus, or transform a particular article into a different state or thing ("machine-or-transformation" test), to be eligible for patenting under 35 U.S.C. § 101, despite this Court's precedent declining to limit the broad statutory grant of patent eligibility for "any" new and useful process beyond excluding patents for "laws of nature, physical phenomena, and abstract ideas."

Whether the Federal Circuit's "machine-or-transformation" test for patent eligibility, which effectively forecloses meaningful patent protection to many business methods, contradicts the clear Congressional intent that patents protect "method[s] of doing or conducting business."  35 U.S.C. § 273.

John Fulton, Jr.  contributed to this blog entry.

Friday, 31 October 2008 17:54


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Earlier this year, Gibson Guitar Corp. became involved in litigation related to the enforcement of its patents against the makers and retailers of the GUITAR HERO video game.   With the emergence of the GUITAR HERO video game into the popular culture, the results of this litigation could have interesting consequences.  Here is one of the first news articles on this topic:

Tuesday, 09 September 2008 17:52


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Microsoft was recently awarded U.S. Patent  7,415,666 for a Method and System for navigating paginated content in page-based increments which has some up in arms at the notion that Microsoft could patent 'Page-Up' and 'Page-Down'  keystrokes. (link)  However, as you consider the outrage, remember that patents are much more than what is set forth in their titles and abstracts, and a true understanding of what is covered can only result from 'paging down' through the text of the patent to the claims.  They are the starting point for revealing the true scope of a patent, which in most cases is much more nuanced than what may originally be thought. 

New rules concerning ex parte patent appeals are set to take effect Dec. 10, 2008.  In response to their publication in June 2008, many in the field are characterizing them as making the process more costly and cumbersome, while proponents claim they provide much needed standardization to the process.  (Article Here)

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