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Supreme Court to decide: What kind of innovations get a patent?

The Supreme Court on Monday takes up this fundamental question in patent law. The answer holds billion-dollar implications for the US economy.

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The US Supreme Court on Monday takes up the most fundamental question in patent law: Which innovations deserve the protection of a patent?

The answer holds billion-dollar implications for the American economy.

At issue is whether US patent protection must be limited to inventions involving machines and transformative processes, or whether patent law also embraces nonphysical inventions like improved business methods and software innovations.

The case, Bilski v. Kappos, is viewed as a potential landmark in patent law. It has attracted 67 friend-of-the-court briefs from lawyers, scholars, and businesses, including Microsoft, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, Bank of America, Google, Yahoo, and L.L. Bean.

A patent is a reward for innovation. It grants a temporary monopoly to inventors who shape original thought into a "new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter."


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