Not a Lexis Advance subscriber? Try it out for free.

Mayo Collaborative Servs. v. Prometheus Labs., Inc.

Supreme Court of the United States

December 7, 2011, Argued; March 20, 2012, Decided

No. 10-1150

Opinion

 [*70]  [**1293]   Justice Breyer delivered the opinion of the Court.

Section 101 of the Patent Act defines patentable subject matter. It says:

"Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title." 35 U.S.C. § 101.

The Court has long held that this provision contains an important implicit [***327]  exception. "[L]aws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas" are not patentable. Diamond v. Diehr, 450 U.S. 175, 185, 101 S. Ct. 1048, 67 L. Ed. 2d 155 (1981); see also Bilski v. Kappos, 561 U.S. 593, 601, 130 S. Ct. 3218, 3222, 177 L. Ed. 2d 792, 797 (2010), Diamond v. Chakrabarty, 447 U.S. 303, 309, 100 S. Ct. 2204, 65 L. Ed. 2d 144  [*71]  (1980); Le Roy v. Tatham, 55 U.S. 156, 14 How. 156, 175, 14 L. Ed. 367 (1853); O'Reilly v. Morse, 56 U.S. 62, 15 How. 62, 112-120, 14 L. Ed. 601 (1854); cf. Neilson v. Harford, Webster's Patent Cases 295,  [****9] 371 (1841) (English case discussing same). Thus, the Court has written that "a new mineral discovered in the earth or a new plant found in the wild is not patentable subject matter. Likewise, Einstein could not patent his celebrated law that E=mc2; nor could Newton have patented the law of gravity. Such discoveries are 'manifestations of . . . nature, free to all men and reserved exclusively to none.'" Chakrabarty, supra, at 309, 100 S. Ct. 2204, 65 L. Ed. 2d 144 (quoting Funk Brothers Seed Co. v. Kalo Inoculant Co., 333 U.S. 127, 130, 68 S. Ct. 440, 92 L. Ed. 588, 1948 Dec. Comm'r Pat. 671 (1948)).

"Phenomena 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." Gottschalk v. Benson, 409 U.S. 63, 67, 93 S. Ct. 253, 34 L. Ed. 2d 273 (1972). And monopolization of those tools through the grant of a patent might tend to impede innovation more than it would tend to promote it.

Read The Full CaseNot a Lexis Advance subscriber? Try it out for free.

Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.

566 U.S. 66 *; 132 S. Ct. 1289 **; 182 L. Ed. 2d 321 ***; 2012 U.S. LEXIS 2316 ****; 101 U.S.P.Q.2D (BNA) 1961; 80 U.S.L.W. 4225; 90 A.L.R. Fed. 2d 685; 2012 WL 912952

MAYO COLLABORATIVE SERVICES, DBA MAYO MEDICAL LABORATORIES, et al., Petitioners v. PROMETHEUS LABORATORIES, INC.

Prior History:  [****1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FEDERAL CIRCUIT.

Prometheus Labs., Inc. v. Mayo Collaborative Servs. & Mayo Clinic Rochester, 628 F.3d 1347, 2010 U.S. App. LEXIS 25956 (Fed. Cir., 2010)

Disposition: Reversed.

CORE TERMS

patent, laws of nature, steps, metabolite, processes, thiopurine, invention, transform, natural law, correlations, unpatentable, eligible, patient, alarm, discovery, embody, levels, administering, formula, blood, conventional, equation, dosage, cases, air, abstract idea, mathematical, receptacle, machine, heat

Patent Law, Subject Matter, General Overview, Defenses, Patent Invalidity, Grounds, Specifications, Description Requirement