USPTO Issues Interim Guidance To Patent Examiners In Wake Of Bilski Decision

by Brian Fletcher on June 30, 2010

Following the Supreme Court’s decision in Bilski v. Kappos (see our post here), the USPTO issued a memorandum to provide interim guidance to the Patent Examining Corps.  For now, the USPTO will continue to use the Federal Circuit’s machine-or-transformation test as the benchmark for patentability determinations under Section 101.

The pertinent part of the memo reads:

Examiners should continue to examine patent applications for compliance with section 101 using the existing guidance concerning the machine-or-transformation test as a tool for determining whether the claimed invention is a process under section 101. If a claimed method meets the machine-or-transformation test, the method is likely patent-eligible under section 101 unless there is a clear indication that the method is directed to an abstract idea. If a claimed method does not meet the machine-or- transformation test, the examiner should reject the claim under section 101 unless there is a clear indication that the method is not directed to an abstract idea. If a claim is rejected under section 101 on the basis that it is drawn to an abstract idea, the applicant then has the opportunity to explain why the claimed method is not drawn to an abstract idea.

The USPTO is reviewing the decision in Bilski and will be developing further guidance on patent subject matter eligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 10 1.

To read the Bilski memo to the Patent Examining Corps, click here.


Gena777 July 6, 2010 at 4:19 pm

The Bilski ruling is growing on me. Nevertheless, it’s pretty easy to see that the issue of defining the limits of an “abstract idea” will likely be the focus of much patent litigation in the near future. I do rather wish that the Court had made more of an attempt to address this. Lacking guidance from above, lower courts will have to address the issue case-by-case, and we’ll likely end up with some kind of piecemeal, undefined, “I know it when I see it” means of determining which inventions are too abstract. I wouldn’t be surprised if the issue ends up going back up to the Supreme Court again very soon.

Phoenix Patent Attorney July 9, 2010 at 9:00 pm

I completely agree. Bilski is certainly not the end-all decision many thought it would be. I imagine there will be a good deal of work created for patent practitioners arguing that applications are patent-eligible despite not satisfying machine-or-transformation, as Bilski allows. The memo shifts, in a way, the burden onto the applicant.

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