On Shaky Ground: The (Near) Future of Patents After Bilski

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Bernard Bilski did not intend to be a poster child for business method inventions. He filed his patent application more than a year before the Federal Circuit decided State Street Bank & Trust Co. v. Signature Financial Group, Inc., 149 F.3d 1368 (Fed. Cir. 1998), the decision that inspired a blizzard of business method patent applications. Bilski claimed a method of hedging commodity transactions by performing “transactions” between commodity providers, commodity consumers, and market participants who have counter-risk positions to the consumers. Bilski’s patent claims are directed to one class of “business methods,” those pertaining to trading methods. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) rejected Bilski’s claims, as part of a larger overall policy shift to limit the scope of patentable subject matter. It was therefore no surprise that Bilski appealed to the Federal Circuit.

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