Bilski's Blues

It produced a seismic change in patent law. And it's got a lot of companies running scared.

The cause of this consternation: the Federal Circuit's Oct. 30 decision in In re Bilski. This en banc ruling repudiated a seminal patent case and substantially cut back on the types of inventions that can be patented. How far it cut back is unclear, and that's part of the problem.

Test Trouble

The decision in Bilski may have been brought about by the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court in recent years has repeatedly overturned key Federal Circuit patent rulings that expanded patentee rights. State Street was controversial, and three justices stated in dicta that the case's "useful, concrete and tangible result" test contradicted Supreme Court rulings.

Avoiding Limits

The Bilski ruling is bad news for many patent owners and applicants, but it might not be as bad as many fear.


Steven Seidenberg

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