The US Supreme Court has ruled against Bernard Bilski in the landmark Bilski v. Kappos patents case, ruling that his business method for hedging risk in commodities trading was too abstract to be patented. But, at our sister publication Pharmacogenomics Reporter Turna Ray says the court also "rejected a lower court's determination that a business method patent must be tied to a machine or undergo a transformation in order to be patentable." This opinion could have a positive impact on biotech, since it doesn't rule out patents granted for medical diagnostics, like Myriad's patent for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. The issue at hand, says The New York Times' John Schwartz, was whether patents should be granted for processes that didn't meet the "machine-or-transformation" test, which says the process must be tied to a particular machine or change an article into something different or into another state. While the justices rejected Bilski's claim for a patent, the majority opinion did say that the machine-or-transformation test is not the only appropriate test for patenting a process, Schwartz adds.
The ruling, says Genomics Law Report's Dan Vorhaus and John Conley, means that biotech companies are "breathing a sigh of relief, secure in the knowledge that the world of biotechnology patents as we know it continues on just as — or better than — before." In the Myriad case, Judge Robert Sweet relied on the machine-or-transformation test to make his ruling, they add, which — in the light of the Supreme Court's opinion on the matter — could give the appeals court grounds to reverse that decision.