Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=1725009
 
 

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Life after Bilski


Mark A. Lemley


Stanford Law School

Michael Risch


Villanova University School of Law

Ted M. Sichelman


University of San Diego School of Law

R. Polk Wagner


University of Pennsylvania Law School

December 13, 2010

Stanford Law Review, Vol. 63, pp. 1315-1347, 2011
Stanford Public Law Working Paper No. 1725009
San Diego Legal Studies Paper No. 11-046
U of Penn, Inst for Law & Econ Research Paper No. 11-02
U of Penn Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 11-05
Villanova Law/Public Policy Research Paper No. 2012-2003

Abstract:     
In Bilski v. Kappos, the Supreme Court declined calls to categorically exclude business methods - or any technology - from the patent law. It also rejected as the sole test of subject matter eligibility the Federal Circuit’s deeply-flawed "machine or transformation" test, under which no process is patentable unless it is tied to a particular machine or transforms an article to another state or thing. Subsequent developments threaten to undo that holding, however. Relying on the Court’s description of the Federal Circuit test as a "useful and important clue', the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, patent litigants, and district courts have all continued to rely on the machine-or-transformation test in the wake of Bilski: no longer as the sole rule, but as a presumptive starting point that threatens to effectively become mandatory. In this Article, we suggest a new way to understand the exclusion of abstract ideas from patentable subject matter. No class of invention is inherently too abstract for patenting. Rather, the rule against patenting abstract ideas is an effort to prevent inventors from claiming their ideas too broadly. By requiring that patent claims be limited to a specific set of practical applications of an idea, the abstract ideas doctrine both makes the scope of the resulting patent clearer and leaves room for subsequent inventors to improve upon - and patent new applications of - the same basic principle. Recasting the abstract ideas doctrine as an overclaiming test eliminates the constraints of the artificial machine-or-transformation test, as well as the pointless effort to fit inventions into permissible or impermissible categories. It also helps understand some otherwise-inexplicable distinctions in the case law. Testing for overclaiming allows courts to focus on what really matters: whether the scope of the patentee's claims are commensurate with the invention’s practical, real-world contribution. This inquiry, we suggest, is the touchstone of the abstract ideas analysis, and the way out of the post-Bilski confusion.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 68

Keywords: patents, law, Bilski, invention, MOT, patentable subject matter, 101, Diehr, business methods, software, Federal Circuit

JEL Classification: K20, L51, O31, O34

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Date posted: December 17, 2010 ; Last revised: February 29, 2012

Suggested Citation

Lemley, Mark A. and Risch, Michael and Sichelman, Ted M. and Wagner, R. Polk, Life after Bilski (December 13, 2010). Stanford Law Review, Vol. 63, pp. 1315-1347, 2011; Stanford Public Law Working Paper No. 1725009; San Diego Legal Studies Paper No. 11-046; U of Penn, Inst for Law & Econ Research Paper No. 11-02; U of Penn Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 11-05; Villanova Law/Public Policy Research Paper No. 2012-2003. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1725009

Contact Information

Mark A. Lemley
Stanford Law School ( email )
559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States
Michael Risch
Villanova University School of Law ( email )
299 N. Spring Mill Road
Villanova, PA 19085
United States
HOME PAGE: http://www1.villanova.edu/villanova/law/academics/faculty/Facultyprofiles/MichaelRisch.html
Ted M. Sichelman
University of San Diego School of Law ( email )
5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110-2492
United States
(619) 260-7512 (Phone)
(619) 260-2748 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.sandiego.edu/law/academics/faculty/bio.php?id=795
R. Polk Wagner (Contact Author)
University of Pennsylvania Law School ( email )
3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
267-433-4431 (Phone)
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