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Supreme Court Sheds No New Light on Business-Method Patents

Decision against Bilski does little to clarify the issue, say experts

2 min read

30 June 2010—On Monday, the United States Supreme Court issued its much anticipated ruling regarding business method patents. The 5-4 ruling is in response to an October 2008 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. That decision stated that in order to be considered patentable, a process or method must be related to a particular machine or itself transform an object. This so-called machine-or-transformation test sparked a long debate among legal professionals regarding exactly how its key terms—process and transformation—can be concretely defined. Monday’s ruling did little to clear up the confusion, experts say.

Despite predictions that the court would propose more stringent rules and put the debate to rest, the majority opinion, written by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, instead took a moderate—and, experts say, vague—position. ”A business method is simply one kind of ’method’ that is, at least in some circumstances, eligible for patenting,” Justice Kennedy wrote. Though the court asserted that the machine-or-transformation test should not be the only criterion by which business methods are evaluated, the justices agreed to ”by no means foreclose the Federal Circuit’s development of limiting criteria.”

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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

11 min read
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.

And he had a problem.

The Cold War had ended, crashing the U.S. defense industry. And business wasn’t going to come back anytime soon. BEI needed to identify and capture new customers—and quickly.

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