Patent Subject Matter Eligibility
44 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2016
Date Written: December 11, 2016
We address a fundamental question: “What is patentable subject matter under the patent act?” The present confusion and rise in opportunistic patent litigation seen in the U.S. today is due to the three judicially created exceptions to the U.S. Patent Act’s broad patent-eligibility principles: ‘laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas’ whose scope and validity are questionable. Here we examine the exceptions from the perspective of post-1900 understanding of physics, mathematics, algorithms, computations, life sciences, and information theory. We conclude that the exceptions are irrational and anachronistic. The judiciary’s lack of expertise in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) has made the patent system unstable by continuing to err in holding that the laws of Nature are known to mankind and form “part of the storehouse of knowledge of all men” and “free to all men and reserved exclusively to none.” In fact, the real laws of Nature are unknown and likely to remain so forever; physicists “know” them only as conjectures open to refutation. We also point out deep existing connections between biotechnology and software and explain why both are patentable subject matter — they are two sides of the same coin. Our perspective leads us to suggest a definition for patentable subject matter and provide fundamental tests for patentability. Finally, for efficient working of the patent system, we suggest the creation of a statutory body, the Patent Validation Board, whose decisions on patent validity and extent of patent infringement will be final and binding on the courts. The courts should decide only non-STEM matters, e.g., damages.
Keywords: 35 U.S.C. 101, patent, patent-eligible, statutory subject matter, abstract ideas, laws of nature, natural phenomena
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