A Uniform Framework for Patent Eligibility
89 Pages Posted: 4 Dec 2010
Date Written: December 1, 2010
There is a need to clarify patent law so as to advance resolution of its most fundamental question – delineating the categories of subject matter that are eligible for patent protection. Coupled with the active role the Supreme Court has taken in examining this precise issue, individuals and non-profit organizations have galvanized a public discourse through constitutional challenges to the issuance of various biotechnology patents. Despite a statutory framework that has remained constant since 1793, courts have been unable to create a comprehensive test for determining patent-eligible subject matter that accurately embodies the foundational principles that underlie the federal grant of patents. I argue that the proximate cause of the lack of an appropriate framework is the failure of courts to clearly define the statutory categories and the absence of a technology-agnostic method of analyzing whether an invention claims ownership over a product of nature. This Article sets forth a uniform framework that addresses patent-eligible subject matter through the creation of a practical methodology that focuses on these two principles. The advantages of the proposed framework are highlighted through the application of the framework to traditional inventions and emerging biotechnologies.
Keywords: patent law, patentable subject matter, product of nature doctrine, patent validity, patent theory, patent policy
JEL Classification: O34
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