Supreme Court ‘Only Black Magic Patent Eligible’
The Supreme Court ruling in Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Labs., Inc. (Supreme Court 2012) was released on March 20, 2012 and they held unanimously against Prometheus and invalidated two patents under 35 USC 101. My title may be a bit salacious, since the holding in the case does not limit patents to just black magic, it limits them to magic. The holding on p. 4 states:
The steps in the claimed processes (apart from the natural laws themselves) involve well-understood, routine, conventional activity previously engaged in by researchers in the field. P. 4
The three steps (of the claim) as an ordered combination adds nothing to the laws of nature that is not already present when the steps are considered separately. P. 10
Logically, the Supreme Court is saying that known steps or elements in combination with a law of nature is not patent eligible. First every invention ever made involves steps (elements) that were known individually before the invention, and laws of nature. You cannot create something out of nothing. Section 112 means that you have to be able to describe your invention in terms known to those skilled in the art. Thus the Supreme Court’s holding means that any invention that satisfies 112 is unpatentable under 101. The only inventions that will satisfy 101 are those that violate laws of nature or involve creating something out of nothing – or magic.
Get out your cauldrons-
For the lawyers in the audience this case reintroduces the point of novelty test nonsense.
I have written extensively about this case in the following posts and will not reiterate my earlier points.
But for those not familiar with the case here is a little background
The patents (6,355,623 and 6,680,302) claim methods for determining the optimal dosage of thiopurine drugs used to treat gastrointestinal and non-gastrointestinal autoimmune diseases. Thus, the questions in this case are whether determining optimal dosages of thiopurine drugs to treat autoimmune diseases exists in nature separate from man and whether this solves an objective problem? Clearly, determining optimal dosages does not exist in nature for any drug and the patent solves the objective problem of determining the optimal dosages of thiopurine drugs for autoimmune diseases.
Ayn Rand discussed this exact issue in Atlas Shrugged. James Taggart is discussing Rearden Metal with his wife:
”…’he didn’t invent smelting and chemistry and air compression. He couldn’t have invented HIS metal but for thousands and thousands of other people. HIS Metal! Why does he think it’s his? Why does he think it’s his invention? Everybody uses the work of everybody else. Nobody ever invents anything.’ (Jim Taggart) She(Jim Taggart’s Wife) said, puzzled, ‘But the iron ore and all those other things were there all the time. Why didn’t anybody else make that Metal, but Mr. Rearden did?’” Kindle Location 5796-5802
These exact questions could be asked of the Supreme Court. All these other steps were available to other people, but no one else discovered how to use thiopurine to safely treat Crohn’s disease. In fact, the Supreme Court admits as much.
. . . and it has been difficult for doctors to determine whether for a particular patient a given dose is too high, risking harmful side effects, or too low, and so likely ineffective. p. 4
The reality is that this Supreme Court is anti-patent and anti-property rights. The opinion states patents are monopolies in three spots and mentions rent seeking in one spot, but it does not mention that the Constitution clearly states that inventors have a RIGHT to their invention and it does not state that patents are property rights. This case is just another example that the anti-property rights and anti-Natural Rights crowd is in control of our government. This case will have long term negative ramifications for the US economy. The US is losing its technological advantage because it believes that inventors should work for free. Note that Singapore is taking another path and trying to figure out how to strengthen their patent laws (see Singapore and the US Divergent Patent Policies)
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This blog is devoted to intellectual property innovation, patent law and innovation. The moderator, editor, and main author is Dale B. Halling. Mr. Halling is patent attorney and entrepreneur. As a patent attorney, Mr. Halling, has represented numerous Fortune 500 companies including, McDonnell Douglas, Boeing, Motorola, Ameritech, SBC, MCI, Cypress, and numerous technology start-ups. He has helped his clients obtain patents worldwide. Mr. Halling has a BS in Electrical Engineering from Kansas State University, an MS in Physics from the University of Texas at Dallas and a JD from St. Louis University. Mr. Halling is the author of the book “The Decline and Fall of the American Entrepreneur: How Little Known Laws are Killing Innovation.”
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