Profession

Supreme Court patent case could affect medical research

Justices will decide whether certain methods are patentable. The ruling may influence process patents in biomedicine and technology.

By Amy Lynn Sorrel — Posted Aug. 25, 2009

Print  |   Email  |   Respond  |   Reprints  |   Like Facebook  |   Share Twitter  |   Tweet Linkedin

A case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court has some medical and biotechnology groups concerned that the decision could close the door on medical innovations.

Justices will decide in Bilski v. Doll whether certain business methods are patentable. An energy company CEO had sued the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office after it denied a patent on certain commodities trading techniques. The court's ruling is expected to influence process patents in various fields, including technology, business and biomedicine.

Federal law generally bars the patentability of laws of nature, natural phenomena and abstract ideas. The Supreme Court case stems from a 2008 Federal Circuit Court of Appeals decision that narrowed the standards for patenting a common principle that is transformed into a novel development.

If they stand, the limitations "could jeopardize already-issued biotechnology claims and will create uncertainty surrounding future grants" of patents on biologic, diagnostic and genetic testing methods, Biotechnology Industry Organization General Counsel Tom DiLenge said. The trade group filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Supreme Court in August.

The standards also could deter the financial investment needed to encourage new medical research and development, according to the Advanced Medical Technology Assn., a trade association of medical equipment manufacturers that joined the brief.

The organizations are asking the high court to overturn the appeals court ruling in favor of a more flexible patentability standard previously enforced. As of this article's deadline, oral arguments in Bilski had not been scheduled.

Patent issues have split the medical community in the past.

While not directly involved in Bilski, some medical organizations, including the American Medical Association, have argued in prior patent cases that broadening certain patentability standards could stymie medical research. Some physicians say that discoveries involving basic scientific principles are not meant to be monopolized, but shared to promote medical advances and cost-effective care.

Back to top


ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISE HERE


Featured
Read story

Confronting bias against obese patients

Medical educators are starting to raise awareness about how weight-related stigma can impair patient-physician communication and the treatment of obesity. Read story


Read story

Goodbye

American Medical News is ceasing publication after 55 years of serving physicians by keeping them informed of their rapidly changing profession. Read story


Read story

Policing medical practice employees after work

Doctors can try to regulate staff actions outside the office, but they must watch what they try to stamp out and how they do it. Read story


Read story

Diabetes prevention: Set on a course for lifestyle change

The YMCA's evidence-based program is helping prediabetic patients eat right, get active and lose weight. Read story


Read story

Medicaid's muddled preventive care picture

The health system reform law promises no-cost coverage of a lengthy list of screenings and other prevention services, but some beneficiaries still might miss out. Read story


Read story

How to get tax breaks for your medical practice

Federal, state and local governments offer doctors incentives because practices are recognized as economic engines. But physicians must know how and where to find them. Read story


Read story

Advance pay ACOs: A down payment on Medicare's future

Accountable care organizations that pay doctors up-front bring practice improvements, but it's unclear yet if program actuaries will see a return on investment. Read story


Read story

Physician liability: Your team, your legal risk

When health care team members drop the ball, it's often doctors who end up in court. How can physicians improve such care and avoid risks? Read story

  • Stay informed
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • RSS
  • LinkedIn