Kevin Noonan recently posted an article entitled “The Fantastical World of Justice Stephen Breyer” that demonstrates, via Breyer’s quotes during various oral arguments, his suspicion that the patent system is, for example, issuing broad, hard to understand, claims that lead to “national monopolies” and encourage trolls to harass “small businessmen.” Breyer certainly appears to be leading the court in this area – he authored Mayo after all. No matter what Dr. Noonan thinks about his rhetoric, his anti-patent bias is clear, and has been for some time.
Noonan’s article encouraged me to re-read Breyer’s dissent from the Court’s refusal to decide whether or not the diagnostic claim at issue in Laboratory Corp. of Amer. Holdings v. Metabolite Labs., Inc. was patent-eligible under s. 101. (Breyer’s “Metabolite Labs. Dissent.”) (A copy can be found at the end of this post.) This remand occurred in 2006. The Fed. Cir. was still using the “useful, concrete and tangible result” test of State Street Bank, which morphed into the machine or transformation test by the time Bilski was decided. Both “tests” were urged to be applicable to the diagnostic claim at issue, but Breyer found no transformation recited in the claims and no precedent in the u-c-t test.