OPINION: The Federal Circuit Must Uphold Patent Protection for Business Methods

The decision in the Bilski case will have major implications for business method patents

4 min read

In 1997, two inventors, Bernard Bilski and Rand Warsaw, filed a patent application titled ”Energy Risk Management Method” that focused, among other things, on how organizations like power companies could hedge the ”consumption” risk (the fact consumers might use more or less energy) due to external factors like the weather. They formed a company to provide that sort of risk hedging in the energy marketplace, and their patent wended its way through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO)—that is, until the office’s Board of Patent Appeals picked their invention as a test case to drastically scale back the patentability of so-called business methods. The PTO decided not to grant Bilski and Warsaw a patent on their business method, and now the case is pending before the nation’s appeals court for patent issues, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C., also known as the Federal Circuit.

The decision by 12 judges of the Federal Circuit in the Bilski case is expected any moment now. As the judges weigh their decision, they should consider the impact the court’s decision will have on the future of innovation and competitiveness in the United States. Through Bilski , the PTO threatens to reverse our nation’s long-standing practice of patent neutrality by eliminating an entire class of innovation—business methods—from patent eligibility.

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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

His pivot from defense helped a tiny tuning-fork prevent SUV rollovers and plane crashes

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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

In 1992, Asad M. Madni sat at the helm of BEI Sensors and Controls, overseeing a product line that included a variety of sensor and inertial-navigation devices, but its customers were less varied—mainly, the aerospace and defense electronics industries.

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