- News Home
5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
- About Us
Supremes Rattle the Patent World
3 June 2009 4:30 pm
“Every patent lawyer in the country is on edge,” says Hans Sauer, speaking about a case that’s headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Sauer, a patent counsel for the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) in Washington D.C., says lawyers for technology and drug firms are queasy because they see their world heading into unfamiliar territory. The Supreme Court—which rarely ventures into patent law—said this week that it wants to review a lower court decision (Bilski v. Doll) that declared a type of patent categorically wrong. Many think the Supreme Court agrees with the action and wants to put its own stamp on some new rules for U.S. patents.
In the Bilski case, federal judges in lower courts denied a patent to inventors Bernard Bilski and Rand Warsaw for a “business method” they had developed for hedging bets in the commodities market. The courts ruled that the invention was not eligible for patenting because it was too abstract and removed from the tangible world. Patents should be allowed only on inventions that are linked to specific machines or to processes that transform a substance from one thing to another, the decision said.
None of this has directly affected drug or biotech firms—at least not so far. But, as Sauer explains, concerned executives at BIO member companies have been calling him for the last few days. They have watched in recent years as lower courts issued several broad decisions that narrowed the scope of U.S. patents. Now it looks as though the Supreme Court wants to join the trend, possibly by writing a new, narrower definition of what is patentable. A change in wording could put an unknown number of patents at risk—particularly those based on processes or methods, which are important for certain biotech and drug companies. The Court hasn’t yet put the Bilski case on its schedule. < /p>