Physicality in the Information Age : a normative perspective on the patent eligibility of non-physical methods

McEniery, Benjamin J. (2011) Physicality in the Information Age : a normative perspective on the patent eligibility of non-physical methods. Chicago-Kent Journal of Intellectual Property, 10, pp. 106-167.

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There has been much conjecture of late as to whether the patentable subject matter standard contains a physicality requirement. The issue came to a head when the Federal Circuit introduced the machine-or-transformation test in In re Bilski and declared it to be the sole test for determining subject matter eligibility. Many commentators criticized the test, arguing that it is inconsistent with Supreme Court precedent and the need for the patent system to respond appropriately to all new and useful innovation in whatever form it arises. Those criticisms were vindicated when, on appeal, the Supreme Court in Bilski v. Kappos dispensed with any suggestion that the patentable subject matter test involves a physicality requirement. In this article, the issue is addressed from a normative perspective: it asks whether the patentable subject matter test should contain a physicality requirement. The conclusion reached is that it should not, because such a limitation is not an appropriate means of encouraging much of the valuable innovation we are likely to witness during the Information Age. It is contended that it is not only traditionally-recognized mechanical, chemical and industrial manufacturing processes that are patent eligible, but that patent eligibility extends to include non-machine implemented and non-physical methods that do not have any connection with a physical device and do not cause a physical transformation of matter. Concerns raised that there is a trend of overreaching commoditization or propertization, where the boundaries of patent law have been expanded too far, are unfounded since the strictures of novelty, nonobviousness and sufficiency of description will exclude undeserving subject matter from patentability. The argument made is that introducing a physicality requirement will have unintended adverse effects in various fields of technology, particularly those emerging technologies that are likely to have a profound social effect in the future.

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ID Code: 41344
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
ISSN: 1559-9493
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (180000) > LAW (180100)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (180000) > LAW (180100) > Intellectual Property Law (180115)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Past > Institutes > Institute for Creative Industries and Innovation
Current > Research Centres > Law and Justice Research Centre
Current > Schools > School of Law
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2011 Chicago-Kent Journal of Intellectual Property
Deposited On: 19 Apr 2011 23:48
Last Modified: 20 Aug 2012 11:22

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