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Supreme Court Relaxes Limits on Innovations That Can Be Patented

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Justice Anthony M. Kennedy

Charles Dharapak / Associated Press

The Supreme Court on Monday loosened the limits on the kinds of inventions that are eligible for patent protection in a case that was closely watched for its impacts on innovation.

At issue was a bid by two inventors to patent a business method for hedging risk in buying energy. The high court unanimously rejected the inventors' claim, deeming their innovation too abstract to qualify for patent protection. But in doing so, it also rejected a lower court's reasoning that only inventions involving machinery or physical "transformations" are eligible for patents.

Some experts hailed the decision as a move that could bring patent law out of the industrial era, when inventions were more likely to be machines, into the information age, where they are often are less tangible.

Federal law dictates that patentable inventions include "any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter." But applying that definition has become more complicated with the prevalence of computing and digitization.

From The Washington Post
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