Ex-Judge Michel’s compelling amicus brief – more on that in a future post—prompted me to take a quick look back at the evolution “abstract idea” as a patent-ineligible category of invention. This category of patent-ineligible invention is listed, along with laws of nature and physical phenomena, in Diamond v. Chakrabarty, but the Supreme Court, unfortunately did not provide any examples of abstract ideas.
Fast forward 28 years to In re Bilski, 545 F.3d 943 (Fed. Cir. 2008). The court was deciding whether or not a straightforward claim to hedging risk in commodity markets was patent-eligible subject matter. The divided majority held that the claim failed the machine-or-transformation test and so was not, but it is Judge Rader’s dissent that deserves attention. He concluded that Bilski’s claim fell outside of patent-eligible processes because it “facially abstract.” He wrote: