U.S. Patent Law Edit

A mental process has been defined as a "process[] of human thinking."[1]

Overview Edit

Mental processes . . . standing alone are not patentable even if they have practical application. The Supreme Court has stated that '[p]henomena of nature, though just discovered, mental processes, and abstract intellectual concepts are not patentable, as they are the basic tools of scientific and technological work.' Benson, 409 U.S. at 67, 93 S.Ct. 253 (emphasis added). In Flook the patentee argued that his claims did not seek to patent an abstract idea (an algorithm) because they were limited to a practical application of that idea — updating “alarm limits” for catalytic chemical conversion of hydrocarbons. 437 U.S. at 586, 589-90, 98 S.Ct. 2522. The Court rejected the notion that mere recitation of a practical application of an abstract idea makes it patentable, concluding that '[a] competent draftsman could attach some form of post-solution activity to almost any mathematical formula.' Id. at 590, 98 S.Ct. 2522. Since all other features of the process were well-known, including 'the use of computers for "automatic monitoring-alarming,"' the Court construed the application as 'simply provid[ing] a new and presumably better method for calculating alarm limit values.' Id. at 594-95, 98 S.Ct. 2522. The Court held the application unpatentable because 'if a claim [as a whole] is directed essentially to a method of calculating, using a mathematical formula, even if the solution is for a specific purpose, the claimed method is nonstatutory.' 437 U.S. at 595, 98 S.Ct. 2522 (quoting In re Richman, 563 F.2d 1026, 1030 (CCPA 1977)).

Following the lead of the Supreme Court, this court and our predecessor court have refused to find processes patentable when they merely claimed a mental process standing alone and untied to another category of statutory subject matter even when a practical application was claimed."[2]

When an unpatentable mental process is combined with a machine, the combination may produce patentable subject matter. . . ."[3]

References Edit

  1. In re Comiskey, 499 F.3d 1365, 1377, 84 U.S.P.Q.2d (BNA) 1670 (Fed. Cir. 2007) (full-text).
  2. Id. at 1377-78.
  3. Id.

See also Edit

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