No. 08-964 
================================================================ 
In The 
Supreme Court of the United States 
----------------- ♦ ----------------- 
BERNARD L. BILSKI and RAND A. WARSAW, 
Petitioners,        
v. 
JOHN DOLL, ACTING UNDER SECRETARY 
OF COMMERCE FOR INTELLECTUAL 
PROPERTY AND ACTING DIRECTOR, PATENT 
AND TRADEMARK OFFICE, 
Respondent.        
----------------- ♦ ----------------- 
On Writ Of Certiorari To The 
United States Court Of Appeals 
For The Federal Circuit 
----------------- ♦ ----------------- 
BRIEF OF AMICUS CURIAE 
RAYMOND C. MEIERS IN SUPPORT 
OF NEITHER PARTY 
----------------- ♦ ----------------- 
GREGG W. EMCH 
Counsel of Record 
MACMILLAN, SOBANSKI & TODD LLC 
One Maritime Plaza, Fifth Floor 
720 Water Street 
Toledo, Ohio 43604 
419-255-5900 
Attorneys for Amicus Curiae 
================================================================ 
COCKLE LAW BRIEF PRINTING CO. (800) 225-6964 
OR CALL COLLECT (402) 342-2831 


 
QUESTIONS PRESENTED 
 
1.  Whether the Federal Circuit erred by holding 
that a “process” must be tied to a particular machine 
or apparatus, or transform a particular article into a 
different state or thing (“machine-or-transformation” 
test), to be eligible for patenting under 35 U.S.C. 
§ 101, despite this Court’s precedent declining to limit 
the broad statutory grant of patent eligibility for 
“any” new and useful process beyond excluding 
patents for “laws of nature, physical phenomena, and 
abstract ideas.”  
2. Whether the Federal Circuit’s “machine-or-
transformation” test for patent eligibility, which 
effectively forecloses meaningful patent protection to 
many business methods, contradicts the clear 
Congressional intent that patents protect “method[s] 
of doing or conducting business.” 35 U.S.C. § 273. 

ii 
 
TABLE OF CONTENTS 
Page 
QUESTIONS PRESENTED ..................................  

TABLE OF CONTENTS .........................................  
ii 
TABLE OF AUTHORITIES ...................................  

STATEMENT OF INTEREST OF AMICUS CU-
RIAE ....................................................................   

SUMMARY OF ARGUMENT ................................  

ARGUMENT ...........................................................  

  1.   THE FRAMEWORK FOR IDENTIFYING 
PATENTABLE SUBJECT MATTER ..........  

A.   The Fundamentals: Manifestations of 
Nature and Abstract Ideas are not 
Patentable ..............................................   

i.    Manifestations of Nature .................  

ii.   Abstract Ideas ..................................  

iii. 
The cooperative relationship be-
tween Manifestations of Nature and 
Abstract Ideas ..................................  

B.   The Model of Patentable Subject Mat-
ter Revealed by Precedent ....................  

C. 
  
The Implicit Application of the Tri-
partite System in Precedent .................  

i.    Useful results must be obtained ......  

ii.  Manifestations of Nature must be 
applied ..............................................   11 

iii 
 
TABLE OF CONTENTS – Continued 
Page 
iii. A human-caused invention must be 
defined between the manifestations 
of nature that are applied and the 
useful results that are achieved ......   13 
iv. 
 Confirming a distinction between 
the manifestations of nature ap-
plied and human-caused structures 
or steps ..............................................    17 
v.  Summary ..........................................   22 
D.   Benefits of the Tripartite System and 
Perspective .............................................   23 
i.  The model of patentable subject 
matter as a tripartite system 
divides the analysis into compo-
nents that are individually easier to 
assess ................................................   23 
ii. 
 The model of patentable subject 
matter as a tripartite system is 
rigorous and flexible .........................    25 
iii. The model of patentable subject 
matter as a tripartite system will 
encourage focused claiming and 
extensive disclosure, especially in 
emerging fields .................................  25 
iv.   Perspective .......................................   26 
  2. 
  
APPLICATION OF THE TRIPARTITE 
MODEL OF PATENTABLE SUBJECT 
MATTER TO THE PRESENT CLAIMS .....   26 

iv 
 
TABLE OF CONTENTS – Continued 
Page 
A.    The claimed subject matter achieves a 
useful result that is objectively veri-
fiable ......................................................   26 
B.   The useful result does not arise natu-
rally ........................................................    29 
C.   The claim recites something human-
caused that links the manifestations of 
nature applied and the useful result 
achieved .................................................   29 
D.    A human-controlled step recited in the 
claimed subject matter is more than a 
restatement of the useful result ...........   29 
E. 
  
The claimed subject matter is not 
based on reliable manifestations of 
nature .....................................................   30 
CONCLUSION .......................................................   32 
 


 
TABLE OF AUTHORITIES 
Page 
CASES 
Brenner v. Manson, 383 U.S. 519 (1966) ........... passim 
Diamond v. Chakrabarty, 447 U.S. 303 
(1980) ..................................................... 19,  20, 22, 25 
Diamond v. Diehr, 450 U.S. 175 (1981) ....................... 5 
Funk Brothers Seed Co. v. Kalo Inoculant Co.
333 U.S. 127 (1948) ......................................... passim 
Gottschalk v. Benson, 409 U.S. 63 (1972) .......... passim 
In re Bilski, 545 F.3d 943 (Fed. Cir. 2008) ............. 5, 28 
Laboratory Corp. of America Holdings v. Metabo-
lite Laboratories Inc., 548 U.S. 124 (2006) .............. 24 
Le Roy v. Tatham, 55 U.S. 156 (1852) ...................... 4, 6 
Mackay Radio & Telegraph Co. v. Radio Corp. 
of America, 306 U.S. 86 (1939) ....................... passim 
O’Reilly v. Morse, 56 U.S. 62 (1853) ................... passim 
Parker v. Flook, 437 U.S. 584 (1978) ................. passim 
Rubber-Tip Pencil Company v. Howard, 87 U.S. 
498 (1874) .................................................................. 3 
Smith v. Snow, 294 U.S. 1 (1935) .............................. 20 
The Telephone Cases, 126 U.S. 1 (1888) .... 16, 17, 20, 22 
Tilghman v. Proctor, 102 U.S. 707 (1880) ................ 3, 8 
 
STATUTES 
35 U.S.C. § 101 ................................................... passim 
35 U.S.C. § 102 ..................................................... 10, 11 

vi 
 
TABLE OF AUTHORITIES – Continued 
Page 
35 U.S.C. § 103 ..................................................... 10, 11 
35 U.S.C. § 112 ...................................................... 10,  11 
 
OTHER AUTHORITIES 
Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary 
(2d ed. 1997) .............................................................. 6 
U.S. App. No. 08/833,892 .......................... 26,  27, 28, 30 
U.S. Pat. No. 174,465 ........................................... 16, 17 
U.S. Pat. No. 1,974,387 .............................................. 11 
U.S. Pat. No. 2,908,693 .......................................... 9, 11 
U.S. Pat. No. Re117 ............................ 14,  15,  16, 17, 19 


STATEMENT OF INTEREST 
OF AMICUS CURIAE1 
 
Raymond C. Meiers is an attorney in private 
practice who has been interested in the field of 
patentable subject matter for over ten years. He has 
not been paid for this brief. It represents his concern 
for the advancement of patent law. He holds a 
Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from 
the University of Toledo and a Juris Doctor from 
the University of Cincinnati. He has no business or 
personal relationship with the Petitioners or the 
Respondent and does respectfully submit this brief as 
a true amicus curiae
----------------- ♦ ----------------- 
 
SUMMARY OF ARGUMENT 
 
Precedent provides a contemporary and robust 
framework for distinguishing between patentable and 
the unpatentable subject matter. It is not necessary 
to turn to narrowly-focused and rigid tests like the 
machine test or the transformation test. Similarly, it 
is not necessary to turn to subjective standards like 
“technology” or “mental processes.” Further, § 101 
need not be viewed as some quaint but ineffectual 
 
    1  Under Supreme Court Rule 37.6, I state that no part of 
this brief was authored by counsel for any party, and no person 
or entity made a monetary contribution to the preparation or 
submission of the brief. The brief is filed with the consent of the 
parties, copies of the consent letters having been filed with the 
Clerk. 


provision of Title 35, such that the other provisions of 
Title 35 are capable of filtering subject matter not 
worthy of a patent. 
 
The framework provided by precedent, when 
fully appreciated and properly applied, will function 
to isolate unpatentable subject matter in conformance 
with legislative intent. As set forth in greater detail 
below, precedent reveals that patentable subject 
matter is defined by a tripartite system. The three 
elements of the system are manifestations of nature, 
invention, and useful result. The invention applies 
manifestations of nature and achieves a useful result. 
Each element must be present and distinct from the 
other elements, but the three elements must have 
a contextual relationship with one another. The 
Court has provided guidance for assessing each 
element individually and for verifying the necessary 
relationship among the elements.  
 
It is submitted that the application of the 
tripartite system reveals that the claims at issue in 
the present matter fail to define patentable subject 
matter. Specifically, the claims are not based on 
manifestations of nature, demonstrated by the fact 
that the claims will not produce the only useful result 
implied by the application. The claims purport to 
provide a system by which a party practicing the 
claims will achieve a profit from counterbalancing 
two series of commercial transactions. Recognizing 
that patent claims must achieve the useful result 
that is alleged, the present claims implicitly assert 
a foolproof method for making a profit in a risk 


management market. No readily appreciated law of 
economics indicates that such a method is possible 
and no such law is set forth in the application. 
Patents are not granted for claimed subject matter 
that merely attempts to achieve a useful result. 
----------------- ♦ ----------------- 
 
ARGUMENT 
1. THE FRAMEWORK FOR IDENTIFYING 
PATENTABLE SUBJECT MATTER 
A. The Fundamentals: Manifestations of 
Nature and Abstract Ideas are not 
Patentable 
 
It is beyond dispute that manifestations of 
nature are not patentable. A claim to the exclusive 
use of a power of nature itself on the ground that the 
patentee was the first to discover that it could be 
employed to a useful result cannot be sustained. 
Tilghman v. Proctor, 102 U.S. 707, 726-7 (1880). 
Similarly, abstract ideas are not patentable. An idea 
may be a good one, but an idea is not patentable. 
Rubber-Tip Pencil Company v. Howard, 87 U.S. 498, 
507 (1874). 
 
Building on these fundamentals, subsequent 
decisions by the Court provide a robust framework for 
the analysis of claimed subject matter under § 101. 
The starting point for revealing this framework is to 
focus on the fundamentals. Specifically, the defini-
tions of “manifestations of nature” and “abstract 
ideas” must be examined. In addition, the basis for 
their exclusion from patentable subject matter must 


be appreciated. Understanding the meaning and 
context of these terms under § 101 is critical and 
should not be assumed. As stated by Justice Frank-
furter: 
It only confuses the issue, however, to 
introduce such terms as “the work of nature” 
and the “laws of nature.” For these are vague 
and malleable terms infected with too much 
ambiguity and equivocation. Everything 
that happens may be deemed “the work of 
nature,” and any patentable composite 
exemplifies in its properties “the laws of 
nature.” Arguments drawn from such terms 
for ascertaining patentability could fairly be 
employed to challenge almost every patent. 
Funk Brothers Seed Co. v. Kalo Inoculant 
Co., 333 U.S. 127, 134-5 (1948) (Frankfurter, 
F. concurring). 
A similar concern was expressed in Le Roy v. Tatham
55 U.S. 156 (1852). “The word principle is used by 
elementary writers on patent subjects, and some-
times in adjudications of courts, with such a want of 
precision in its application, as to mislead.” Id. at 174. 
By reexamining these terms, first applied to claimed 
subject matter over one hundred and fifty years ago, 
the nature of patentable subject matter begins to 
come into focus. 
 
i. 
Manifestations of Nature 
 
Manifestations of nature are defined by several 
different categories. A manifestation of nature is 
found in phenomena of nature, such as the quality of 


bacteria.  Funk Bros., 333 U.S. at 130. Natural 
phenomena may not be definable by equations or 
objectively measurable, but can be observed by 
humans. Manifestations of nature also include “laws” 
of nature, wherein natural phenomena can be defined 
by incontrovertible equations. The Arrhenius 
equation is one example of a law of nature. Diamond 
v. Diehr, 450 U.S. 175, 177 n.2 (1981). Phenomena 
like the heat of the sun, electricity, and the qualities 
of metals can also be defined by laws of nature. Funk 
Bros., 333 U.S. at 130. An algorithm or mathematical 
formula is like a law of nature. Parker v. Flook, 437 
U.S. 584, 589 (1978). 
 
Manifestations of nature possess two traits 
relevant to patentable subject matter. First, they 
arise without the assistance of humans. Thus, “they 
cannot be invented at all.” In re Bilski, 545 F.3d 943, 
1013 (Fed. Cir. 2008) (Rader, J., dissenting). They are 
“free to all men and reserved exclusively to none” and 
“part of the storehouse of men.” Funk Bros., 333 U.S. 
at 281. For this reason, manifestations of nature 
themselves cannot be patented. A second trait 
common to manifestations of nature is that they are 
dependable. They define reliable building blocks and 
tools that can be applied in an invention to repeatedly 
achieve a useful result.  
 
ii. Abstract 
Ideas 
 
An “idea” is any conception existing in the mind 
as a result of mental understanding, awareness, or 


activity. Random House Webster’s Unabridged 
Dictionary 949 (2d ed. 1997). An idea is a thought, 
conception, notion, groundless supposition, or fantasy. 
Id. The adjective “abstract” connotes thought apart 
from concrete realities, specific objects, or actual 
instances.  Id. at 8. The term abstract also refers to 
expressing a quality or characteristic apart from any 
specific object or instance.  
 
An “abstract idea” is theoretical, not applied or 
practical. In terms of patentable subject matter, an 
abstract idea is a hoped-for result. An abstract idea is 
thus the antithesis of a useful result that is required 
of patentable subject matter. “A principle in the 
abstract is a fundamental truth or a motive and 
cannot be patented.” Le Roy, 55 U.S. at 175 (emphasis 
added). An invention2 converts a hoped-for result into 
a useful result. Patents are not granted as “a reward 
for the search, but compensation for its successful 
conclusion.”  Brenner v. Manson, 383 U.S. 519, 536 
(1966). Thus, if the purported result of claimed 
 
 
2  The term “invention” has a common meaning and a more 
particular meaning in patent law. Subject matter may be 
developed or envisioned that is viewed as useful and new. In 
common usage, such subject matter is referred to as an 
invention. However, the requirements set forth in Title 35 of the 
United States Code determine whether such subject matter is 
truly an invention. As used herein, “invention” strictly refers to 
subject matter that conforms to § 
101 and presumes 
conformance with the other provisions of Title 35. Subject 
matter that purports to be an invention but has not been 
confirmed as thus is referred to as “claimed subject matter.”  


subject matter is not in fact useful, the claimed 
subject matter is directed to an abstract idea.  
 
iii. The cooperative relationship be-
tween Manifestations of Nature and 
Abstract Ideas 
 Like 
manifestations 
of 
nature, abstract ideas are 
relevant to patentable subject matter in more than 
one way. In a negative sense, both manifestations of 
nature and abstract ideas are categories excluded 
from patentable subject matter. They thus define 
boundaries around patentable subject matter. In a 
positive sense, manifestations of nature and abstract 
ideas place claimed subject matter in context and 
confirm its status as an invention. It is this 
interdependent relationship that is the basis of a 
framework of analysis for claimed subject matter.  
 
B.  The Model of Patentable Subject Matter 
Revealed by Precedent 
 
Precedent can be harmonized on the principle 
that patentable subject matter is defined by a 
tripartite system in which manifestations of 
nature are applied by human-created invention to 
achieve a useful result:  
  “He who discovers a hitherto unknown 
phenomenon of nature has no claim to a monopoly of 
it which the law recognizes. If there is to be invention 
from such a discovery, it must come from the 
application of the law of nature to a new and useful 


end.”  Gottschalk v. Benson, 409 U.S. 63, 67 (1972) 
(quoting Funk Bros., 333 U.S. at 130). 
 
“While a scientific truth, or the mathematical 
expression of it, is not patentable invention, a novel 
and useful structure created with the aid of 
knowledge of scientific truth may be.” Mackay Radio 
& Telegraph Co. v. Radio Corp. of America, 306 U.S. 
86, 94 (1939). 
 
“The chemical principle or scientific fact upon 
which . . . [the invention] is founded is, that the 
elements of neutral fat require to be severally united 
with an atomic equivalent of water in order to 
separate from each other and become free. This 
chemical was not discovered by Tilghman. He only 
claims to have invented a particular mode of bringing 
about the desired chemical union between the fatty 
elements and water.” Tilghman v. Proctor, 102 U.S. at 
729. 
 
“A patent will be good, though the subject of the 
patent consists in the discovery of a great, general, 
and most comprehensive principle in science or law of 
nature, if that principle is by the specification applied 
to any special purpose, so as thereby to effectuate a 
practical result and benefit not previously attained.” 
Le Roy, 55 U.S. at 175 (quoting Househill Company v. 
Neilson, Webster’s Patent Cases, 683). 
 
The quoted passages demonstrate that an 
invention does not exist in a vacuum. Its presence is 
confirmed only by reference to the manifestations of 
nature that are applied and to the useful results that 


are achieved. Confirming the existence of each of 
these three elements and verifying a relationship 
among them is the basis for a framework of § 101 
analysis. 
 
C. The Implicit Application of the Tri-
partite System in Precedent 
i. 
Useful results must be obtained 
 In 
Brenner, the patent applicant pursued claims 
to a process for making steroids. The process is 
disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 2,908,693, hereafter the 
’693 patent.3 The applicant’s claims were found 
unpatentable by the Court for failing to disclose any 
utility for the compound produced by the process. 
Brenner, 383 U.S. at 536. The process at issue 
involved the application of manifestations of nature 
(the materials that were subject to the process). The 
claimed process successfully achieved a specific end (a 
compound). However, the claimed subject matter was 
not an invention because the specific end was not 
useful. 
 
Brenner does not stand for the position that an 
invention achieves a result that is universally useful. 
A patent on a vehicle brake system would likely not 
be useful to a maker of packaging but would still be 
 
 
3 The ’693 patent issued to Ringold and Rosenkranz. 
Manson sought an interference with Ringold and Rosenkranz 
and the claims considered by the Court were the interference 
claims, identical to the claims in the ’693 patent. 

10 
valid. A patented drug is not effective for all patients. 
However, the requirement of usefulness under § 101 
applies to all inventions and, therefore, usefulness 
must have some global definition across the fields of 
inventive endeavor. In Brenner, the Court rejected 
the proposition that usefulness under § 101 simply 
requires that the claim subject not be harmful as 
suggested by Justice Story. Brenner, 383 U.S. at 532-
3, n.20. 
 
It is submitted that usefulness under § 
101 
requires objective verification. Claimed subject 
matter should be rejected under § 101 for failing to 
achieve a useful result that can be objectively 
verified, rather than applying the cryptic label 
“abstract idea.” For example, the practice of the 
invention will save labor, effectuate more rapid oil-
spill control, reduce cost, increase production, reduce 
the frequency of failure, increase wealth, improve 
nutritional value, alleviate symptoms, or affect some 
other measurable quality. The useful result must be 
verifiable even to those who choose not to practice the 
invention. 
 
It is conceded that when claimed subject matter 
appears vulnerable to invalidity under § 101 that the 
claimed subject matter may also be vulnerable under 
§ 102, § 103, and § 112 of Title 35. However, that is 
not a legitimate basis for casting § 101 as a pseudo-
requirement of patentability. The result in Brenner 
demonstrates that the other requirements of Title 35, 
§ 102,  § 103,  and  § 112,  will not always filter 
unpatentable subject matter. The claims at issue in 

11 
Brenner were identical to the claims of the ’693 
patent. The issuance of the ’693 patent demonstrates 
that the claims conformed to § 102, § 103, and § 112. 
However, these same claims did not produce a useful 
result for the patent applicant in Brenner. The 
Brenner case does not make clear why the useful 
result asserted by the applicants of the ’693 patent 
were not also applicable to the claims at issue.  
 
ii. Manifestations of Nature must be 
applied 
 In 
Mackay, the claimed subject matter was 
directed to a structure for an antenna.4 A formula 
recited in the claims at issue defined a mathematical 
relationship between the angle of the wires of the 
antenna, their length, and the length of wave 
propagated. Mackay, 306 U.S. at 98. The useful result 
achieved by the claimed subject matter was “the best 
directional radio propagation by the V type antenna.” 
Id. at 101. The Court found that the formula was 
“applicable only to antenna wires which are multiples 
of half wavelengths long.” Id. at 98.  
 
In background, a prior patent had covered 
antenna wires which were multiples of half wave-
lengths long, thus conforming to the formula. The 
claims at issue in Mackay were added to an 
application pending when the suit between the 
 
 
4  Claims 15 and 16 of U.S. Pat. No. 1,974,387 were at issue. 

12 
parties began. Id. at 100. These claims were added to 
that application in order to cover the competitor’s 
products that did not infringe the prior patent. The 
claims covered antenna wires that were intermediate 
of multiples of half wavelengths. The formula upon 
which the claims were based did not apply to these 
wires. Id. 
 
The Court found the claims invalid, stating the 
claimed subject matter was based on “no scientific 
law applicable to wire lengths which are inter-
mediate of multiples of half wave lengths.” Id. at 98 
(emphasis added). The claims effectively cancelled 
“from the application the statement of the scientific 
law defining the invention.”  Id. at 100 (emphasis 
added). As a result, the “best directional radio 
propagation” could not be derived from the claimed 
subject matter. Id. at 101. 
 
The result in Mackay demonstrates why an 
invention must be based on manifestations of nature: 
these building blocks, selected and applied by the 
invention, will, in fact, produce the useful result that 
is alleged. Patentable subject matter must “produce 
precisely the [useful] result” alleged. O’Reilly v. 
Morse, 56 U.S. 62, 119 (1853). 
 
Some argue that claimed subject matter must be 
directed to “technology.” It is submitted that a better 
inquiry is whether the claim is predicated on 
manifestations of nature. If the patentability of the 
claim under § 101 is in question, an applicant can 
objectively address the issue by verifying the 

13 
particular manifestations of nature that are applied 
by the claimed subject matter. Proving whether or not 
the claim is directed to “technology” is wholly 
subjective. Also, the definition of “technology” is 
backward-looking and may fail to encompass 
emerging fields of inventive endeavor. 
 
iii. A human-caused invention must be 
defined between the manifestations 
of nature that are applied and the 
useful results that are achieved 
 
The holding of Brenner supports the position that 
patentable subject matter involves the achievement 
of a useful result. If the claimed subject matter does 
not achieve a useful result, it is directed to an 
abstract idea. The holding of Mackay supports the 
position that patentable subject matter also involves 
the application of manifestations of nature. If the 
claimed subject matter is not based on predictable 
and reliable manifestations of nature, the result 
produced by the claimed subject matter cannot be 
predictably achieved and is therefore not useful. 
 
Brenner and Mackay address opposite ends of the 
tripartite system of patentable subject matter. The 
invention element of the system lies between. The 
invention element of the tripartite system can be 
viewed metaphorically as a ladder. The foot of the 
ladder rests on the foundation provided by the 
current progress of science and the useful arts. The 
ladder extends to what was previously only a 

14 
desirable outcome or abstract idea. The existence of 
the ladder converts the abstract idea into a useful 
result. The rungs of the ladder are applied man-
ifestations of nature. One or more humans establish 
the rails of the ladder which harness and order the 
manifestations of nature. Invention lies in the 
selection of manifestations of nature to apply, as well 
as the order and operating environment in which 
those manifestations are applied.  
 
The model of an invention as a ladder is 
consistent with precedent and helpful. The ladder 
model reflects the concern that an invention is 
human-caused and not naturally occurring. The 
ladder model also conveys that the useful result is not 
readily achievable. Section 101 has been and must 
continue to be interpreted to require that the ladder 
to the useful result is more than just one rung.  
 The 
O’Reilly case represents a relatively straight-
forward analysis. The eighth claim of Morse’s U.S. 
Pat. No. Re117, hereafter the Re117 patent, read: 
8.  I do not propose to limit myself to the 
specific machinery, or parts of machinery, 
described in the foregoing specifications and 
claims; the essence of my invention being the 
use of the motive power of the electric or 
galvanic current, which I call electro-
magnetism, however developed, for making 
or printing intelligible characters, letters, or 
signs, at any distances, being a new 
 
 

15 
application of that power, of which I claim to 
be the first inventor or discovered. 
The useful result of making or printing intelligible 
characters, letters, or signs, at any distances was 
achievable by applying the manifestation of nature of 
electro-magnetism. Other manifestations of nature 
were also applied; the specification of the Re117 
patent describes human-caused steps and structures 
required to achieve the printing of intelligible 
characters at a distance. Claims 1-7 of the Re117 
patent were focused on the embodiments set forth in 
the specification and thereby defined an invention 
between the manifestations of nature applied by 
Morse and the useful result.5 
 
Claim 8 expressly departed from any limitation 
in the specification. In claim 8, Morse made no 
pretense of establishing a human-caused invention 
between the manifestation of nature and the useful 
result. The claims were found invalid. The Court 
noted that the written description of the Re117 patent 
did not support claim 8. O’Reilly, 56 U.S. at 119-20. 
However, the Court also supported the finding of 
invalidity on the lack of usefulness. The Court stated 
that “Morse has not discovered  . . .  that  electric  or 
galvanic current will always print at a distance, no 
 
 
5 Current standards for claim drafting and interpretation 
are different than the standards applied to the Morse claims. 
However, a cursory review of claims 1-7 of Re117 make it clear 
that those claims were intended to include limitations set forth 
in the specification. 

16 
matter what may be the form of the machinery or 
mechanical contrivances through which it passes.” 
O’Reilly, 56 U.S. at 117 (emphasis added). 
 In 
The Telephone Cases, 126 U.S. 1 (1888), the 
holding of O’Reilly was distinguished. Claim 5 of 
Bell’s U.S. Pat. No. 174,465, hereafter the ‘465 
patent, was at issue. The claim read: 
5.  The method of, and apparatus for, trans-
mitting vocal or other sounds telegraphically, 
as herein described, by causing electrical 
undulations, similar in form to the vibrations 
of the air accompanying the said vocal or 
other sound, substantially as set forth. 
The useful result was transmitting vocal or other 
sounds telegraphically. The manifestations of nature 
applied included electrical undulations. The specific-
ation of the ‘465 patent describes human-caused steps 
and structures required to transmit vocal or other 
sounds telegraphically by applying electrical undula-
tions. ’465 patent passim. The difference between 
Bell’s fifth claim and Morse’s eighth claim is that 
Bell’s fifth claim expressly limits itself, twice, to the 
description of the specification.  
 
The results in O’Reilly and The Telephone Cases 
are consistent with the tripartite system of pat-
entable subject matter. In O’Reilly, Morse sought to 
characterize the mere association of a manifestation 
of nature and an achievable useful result as an 
invention. The printing of characters over a distance 
could be achieved through, in part, electromagnetism, 
as shown by claims 1-7 of the Re117 patent. However, 

17 
Morse’s eighth claim was not bound to any human-
caused steps or structures. The useful result of 
printing characters over a distance could not be 
produced by electromagnetism alone and no human-
caused structures or steps, no invention, filled the 
void. That fact rendered the eighth claim an abstract 
idea. In The Telephone Cases, Bell limited claim 5 by 
the description of the ’465 patent’s specification, 
which set forth human-caused structures and steps 
that would, in fact, achieve the useful result.  
 
The eighth claim of the Re117 patent appears to 
be the last patent claim considered by the Court in 
which a bare correlation between a manifestation of 
nature and a useful result was claimed. In decisions 
subsequent to O’Reilly, the Court has considered 
more subtle and nuanced claims. The dominant 
challenge has been to ensure that claimed subject 
matter is human-caused and based on manifestations 
of nature, but does not in fact preempt a mani-
festation of nature.  
 
iv. Confirming a distinction between 
the manifestations of nature applied 
and human-caused structures or 
steps 
 
As set forth above, Mackay supports the position 
that claimed subject matter must apply man-
ifestations of nature. Conversely, the holding in 
Benson (409 U.S. 63) confirms that claimed subject 
matter must not be directed merely to a 
manifestation of nature and thus lack human-caused 

18 
structures or steps. In Benson, the claims at issue 
were directed to a method of converting signals from 
binary coded decimal form into binary form. Id. at 73-
4 (appendix). The manifestation of nature applied by 
the claimed subject matter was a mathematical 
formula.  Id. The useful result achieved by the 
claimed subject matter was a signal in binary form 
for use in a digital computer. Id. at 71-2. The Court 
determined that, if patented, the claim “would wholly 
preempt the mathematical formula and in practical 
effect would be a patent on the algorithm itself.” Id. 
The claimed subject matter purporting to be a 
human-caused invention was merely a single man-
ifestation of nature, an algorithm. 
 In 
Parker, the claim would not have wholly 
preempted a mathematical formula but was nonethe-
less unpatentable. In Parker, the requirement that 
patentable subject matter involve three distinct 
elements is confirmed. The useful result achieved by 
the claimed subject matter was an updated alarm 
limit for transient operating conditions of catalytic 
conversion processes. Parker, 437 U.S. at 585. The 
claim read: 
1.  A method for updating the value of at 
least one alarm limit on at least one process 
variable involved in a process comprising the 
catalytic chemical conversion of hydro-
carbons wherein said alarm limit has a 
current value of Bo+K wherein Bo is the 
current alarm base and K is a predetermined 
alarm offset which comprises: 

19 
(1)  Determining the present value of said 
process variable, said present value being 
defined as PVL; 
(2)  Determining a new alarm base, B1, 
using the following equation: B1=Bo(1.0-
F)+PVL(F) where F is a predetermined 
number greater than zero and less than 1.0; 
(3)  Determining an updated alarm limit 
which is defined as B1+K; and thereafter 
(4) Adjusting said alarm limit to said 
updated alarm limit value. 
Id.  at 596-7 (appendix). Steps 1-3 of the method 
represent a formula for arriving at the updated alarm 
limit and is the single manifestation of nature 
applied. Step 4 is couched in terms of human activity, 
but is merely a restatement of the useful result. 
“Updating” and “adjusting” both involve change. As 
used in the claim, the terms are synonymous. Thus, 
the claim simply recites the manifestation of nature 
and the useful result. The claim is thus similar to 
Morse’s eighth claim in Re117. The claim in Parker 
differs from Morse’s eighth claim in Re117 in that the 
useful result can be achieved based strictly on the 
claimed subject matter. However, the claimed subject 
matter recited a single manifestation of nature. 
 In 
Benson and Parker, the Court provided a first 
guideline to confirm that claimed subject does not 
merely cloak a manifestation of nature: claimed 
subject matter reciting a single manifestation of 
nature preempts that manifestation of nature. In 
Diamond v. Chakrabarty, 447 U.S. 303 (1980), the 

20 
Court provided a second guideline. The claims at 
issue were directed to human-made, genetically 
engineered bacteria. Id. at 305. The bacteria achieved 
the useful result of breaking down crude oil expelled 
during a spill. Id. at n.2. The Court found that the 
claims were directed to patentable subject matter 
since they were “not nature’s handiwork.” Id. at 310. 
This quality of invention was also identified as 
relevant in The Telephone Cases. In finding Bell’s 
patent valid, the Court stated that electricity in its 
natural state would not achieve the useful result of 
transmitting sounds. The Telephone Cases, 126 U.S. 
at 532 (“electricity, left to itself, will not do what is 
wanted”). Claimed subject matter fails to define an 
invention if the claim recites things already occurring 
in nature.6  
 
The holding in Funk Bros. stands in contrast to, 
but reinforces Chakrabarty and The Telephone Cases 
on this point. The claims at issue were directed to a 
combination of strains of Rhizobium bacteria. Funk 
Bros., 333 U.S. at 128-30. Generally, the bacteria 
were applied to infect leguminous plants, such as 
clover, alfalfa, and soy beans. Id. The bacteria allowed 
the leguminous plants to absorb nitrogen from the 
air, for subsequent conversion to organic nitrogenous 
compounds.  Id. There existed numerous species of 
 
 
6 See also Smith v. Snow, 294 U.S. 1, 22 (1935). “By the use 
of materials in a particular manner he secured the performance 
of the function by a means which had never occurred in nature, 
and had not been anticipated by the prior art; this is a 
patentable method or process.” 

21 
Rhizobium bacteria and various strains of each 
species. Id. No one species would infect the roots of all 
species of leguminous plants and the various species 
would exert an inhibitory effect on each other when 
mixed, resulting in reduced efficiency. Id. The 
applicant discovered that some strains could be 
packaged together without producing the inhibitory 
effect. Id. 
 
The claims recited the combination of two or 
more strains of bacteria which were “mutually non-
inhibitive” and “unaffected by each other’s ability to 
fix nitrogen in the leguminous plant for which they 
are specific.” Id. at n.1. The Court acknowledged that 
the combination yielded advantages, such as allowing 
farmers to buy one package of bacteria instead 
of many and simplifying dealer inventory. Id. at 
131. However, the Court determined that these 
advantages arose from a primary or underlying 
useful result, that the strains of bacteria would not 
inhibit one another. “All that remains, therefore, are 
advantages of the mixed inoculants themselves. They 
are not enough.” Id. at 132. The Court explained: 
Each species has the same effect it always 
had. The bacteria perform in their natural 
way. Their use in combination does not im-
prove in any way their natural functioning. 
They serve the ends nature originally 
provided and act quite independently of any 
effort of the patentee. Id. at 131. 
Thus, the holding in Funk Bros. confirms that 
claimed subject matter fails to define an invention if 

22 
the useful result is the direct consequence of 
unaltered manifestations of nature. Merely 
combining two manifestations of nature (different 
strains of bacteria) did not make the claims directed 
to the necessary effect of the combination patentable. 
 
v. Summary 
 In 
Brenner, claims based on manifestations of 
nature and reciting steps that produced something 
not naturally occurring were found invalid because a 
useful result was lacking. In Mackay, claims that 
could be applied to produce something (1) not 
naturally occurring and (2) objectively useable were 
found invalid because manifestations of nature did 
not support the claims. O’Reilly stands for the now 
unremarkable position that something human-caused 
must be set forth between the manifestations of 
nature applied and the useful result achieved. These 
cases demonstrate that each element of the tripartite 
system must be present for patentable subject matter. 
The Telephone Cases, Benson, Parker,  Chakrabarty
and  Funk Bros. flesh out a necessary aspect of the 
relationship among the three elements: the claimed 
subject matter, manifestations of nature applied, and 
useful results achieved must be distinct from one 
another. 
  
 

23 
D. Benefits of the Tripartite System and 
Perspective 
i.  The model of patentable subject 
matter as a tripartite system divides 
the analysis into components that 
are individually easier to assess 
 
The machine-or-transformation test represents a 
good-faith, but misguided attempt to turn the inquiry 
under § 101 into two, alternative questions. As amply 
demonstrated by precedent, the inquiry is far more 
complicated. The tripartite system model that is 
proposed herein apportions this complex issue into 
several sub-inquiries, while remaining consistent 
with precedent. 
 
The first step in the analysis is to confirm that 
the result achieved by the claimed subject matter is 
in fact useful, pursuant to Brenner. The usefulness 
must be objectively verifiable. This first step 
presumes that the claimed subject matter will in fact 
achieve the useful result. However, if, on its face, the 
useful result cannot be verified the claimed subject 
matter fails to be patentable. This first step will filter 
claims purporting results that can be only be 
measured in the mind. 
 
If a useful result is achieved, the relationship 
between the useful result and the claimed subject 
matter is assessed. The useful result must not arise 
naturally from the claimed subject matter, pursuant 
to Funk Bros.  

24 
 
If the useful result is achieved and does not arise 
naturally from claimed subject matter, the rela-
tionship among the useful result, the claimed subject 
matter, and the manifestations of nature applied by 
the claimed subject matter is assessed. The claim 
must recite something human-caused between the 
manifestations of nature applied and the useful result 
achieved, pursuant to O’Reilly. The human-caused 
structure or step must be more than a restatement of 
the useful result, pursuant to Parker.7 The claim 
must recite a precursor to the useful result that is 
necessarily human-caused.  
 
If all three elements of the tripartite system are 
present, the reliability or efficacy of the applied 
manifestations of nature is confirmed. The claimed 
subject matter must be based on dependable 
manifestations of nature to ensure the useful result is 
achieved, pursuant to Mackay. However, the claimed 
subject matter must not preempt a manifestation of 
nature in achieving the useful result, pursuant to 
Benson.  
  
 
 
 
7 The claims at issue in Laboratory Corp. of America 
Holdings v. Metabolite Laboratories Inc., 548 U.S. 124 (2006) 
(Stevens, J., dissenting) would be invalid pursuant to Parker
Specifically, the human-caused step in the claim, the second 
step, is merely a restatement of the useful result.  

25 
ii. The model of patentable subject 
matter as a tripartite system is 
rigorous and flexible 
 
As set forth above, claimed subject matter can 
fail to be patentable under § 101 on at least six 
different grounds under the tripartite system. 
Claimed subject matter can achieve a useful result 
but still fail to be patentable. Conversely, claimed 
subject matter can be based on manifestations of 
nature and achieve a specific end but nonetheless be 
unpatentable. 
 
On the other hand, the tripartite model is flexible 
since the nature of the claimed subject matter is 
irrelevant. The model is based on the Court’s analysis 
of claims directed to products or things (Mackay
Funk Bros.,  O’Reilly,  Chakrabarty) and of claims 
directed to processes (Brenner,  Gottschalk,  Parker). 
The model is focused on the universal characteristics 
of invention, not on whether claimed subject falls 
under an arbitrarily defined category such as 
business methods or technology. 
 
iii. The model of patentable subject 
matter as a tripartite system will 
encourage focused claiming and 
extensive disclosure, especially in 
emerging fields 
 
A patent applicant having the tripartite system 
as a guide will carefully define the circumstances that 
bring about the useful result. Prior to filing a patent 
application, proposed claims can be tested to confirm 

26 
all three elements of the system are present and clearly 
distinct from one another. Further, patent applicants in 
emerging fields of inventive endeavor will have a 
powerful incentive to fully explain the usefulness of the 
claimed subject matter and the reliability of the 
manifestations of nature being applied. 
 
iv. Perspective 
 
The analysis of claimed subject matter for 
conformance with § 101 will not always be straight-
forward. The overall inquiry is about identifying a 
line existing only in an abstract sense, between the 
patentable and the unpatentable. The model of 
patentable subject matter as a tripartite system, as 
thus far developed by precedent, will not provide 
a bright line test. However, no test should. The 
tripartite system represents a flexible set of inquiries 
that, collectively, will identify patentable subject 
matter in a manner consistent with precedent.  
 
2.  APPLICATION OF THE TRIPARTITE MOD-
EL OF PATENTABLE SUBJECT MATTER 
TO THE PRESENT CLAIMS 
A. The claimed subject matter achieves a 
useful result that is objectively veri-
fiable 
 
The claimed subject matter defines a system of 
balancing risk.8 A first series of transactions are 
 
 
8  App. No. 08/833,892, claim 1. 

27 
initiated between a commodity provider and con-
sumers of the commodity. The consumers purchase 
the commodity from the commodity provider at a 
fixed rate based on historical averages. The fixed rate 
paid by the consumers corresponds to a “risk position” 
of the consumers. A second series of transactions are 
initiated between the commodity provider and 
market participants at a second fixed rate. The 
market participants can be a distribution company 
for the commodity.9 The second series of market 
participant transactions balances the risk position of 
the series of consumer transactions. 
  The lower court provided an exemplary 
application of the claimed system: 
For example, coal power plants (i.e., the 
“consumers”) purchase coal to produce 
electricity and are averse to the risk of a 
spike in demand for coal since such a spike 
would increase the price and their costs. 
Conversely, coal mining companies (i.e., the 
“market participants”) are averse to the risk 
of a sudden drop in demand for coal since 
such a drop would reduce their sales and 
depress prices. The claimed method 
envisions an intermediary, the “commodity 
provider,” that sells coal to the power plants 
at a fixed price, thus isolating the power 
plants from the possibility of a spike in 
demand increasing the price of coal above 
 
 
9  Id. at p. 5, lines 15-16. 

28 
the fixed price. The same provider buys coal 
from mining companies at a second fixed 
price, thereby isolating the mining com-
panies from the possibility that a drop in 
demand would lower prices below that fixed 
price. And the provider has thus hedged its 
risk; if demand and prices skyrocket, it has 
sold coal at a disadvantageous price but has 
bought coal at an advantageous price, and 
vice versa if demand and prices fall. 
Importantly, however, the claim is not 
limited to transactions involving actual 
commodities, and the application discloses 
that the recited transactions may simply 
involve options, i.e., rights to purchase or sell 
the commodity at a particular price within a 
particular timeframe. In re Bilski, 545 F.3d 
at 949-950. 
The application does not identify a useful result 
achieved by the claimed subject matter precisely. 
However, the party practicing the claimed subject 
matter may achieve a profit defined as the margin 
between the transactions with consumers and the 
transactions with market participants.10 This profit 
would be a useful result to the practicing party and 
would be objectively verifiable. 
  
 
 
 
10  Id. at lines 12-14. 

29 
B. The useful result does not arise nat-
urally 
 
The useful result is profit obtained by leveraging 
the first and second series of commercial transactions 
relative to one another. These transactions must be 
managed and executed with skill to achieve a profit. 
It is therefore submitted that profit does not arise 
naturally. 
 
C. The  claim  recites something human-
caused that links the manifestations of 
nature applied and the useful result 
achieved 
 
The manifestations of nature applied by the 
claimed subject matter are economic principles. The 
present claims recite steps that are necessarily 
applied and therefore caused by humans. 
 
D. A human-caused step recited in the 
claimed subject matter is more than a 
restatement of the useful result 
 
At least the first step of initiating transactions is 
a prerequisite to achieving the useful result of profit. 
This first step represents more than a restatement of 
the useful result since the profit is not achieved upon 
completion of this step. 
  
 

30 
E. The claimed subject matter is not based 
on reliable manifestations of nature 
 
The key to making the system achieve the useful 
result is the determination of the risk position with 
substantial certainty. If the risk position cannot be 
determined, the scope of necessary transactions with 
market participants cannot be determined. Further, 
the useful result of profit to the practicing party will 
not be achieved.  
 
The risk position appears to be qualitative. The 
application does not provide an equation defining the 
risk position. The Petitioners appear to acknowledge 
that the risk position can only be estimated.11 
 
As noted in Brenner, a patent is not awarded for 
a hunt. Brenner, 383 U.S. at 536. To be patentable, 
the claims at issue must in fact “produce precisely the 
[useful] result” alleged. O’Reilly, 56 U.S. at 119. 
Therefore, for these claims to be patentable, the claim 
must recite a method that will in fact balance the risk 
position and generate profit for the commodity 
provider. The applicants thus allege to have 
discovered a business method with guaranteed 
profitability. 
 
Applicants have pointed to benefits accruing to 
third parties to avoid this conclusion. Specifically, the 
application notes that consumers and market partici-
pants will enjoy isolation from cost and revenue 
 
 
11  Application 08/833,892 at p. 4, lines 18-19. 

31 
fluctuations, respectively. However, this attempt to 
divert attention from the useful result associated 
with the practicing party should be rejected. 
 
The benefits accruing to consumers and market 
participants are necessarily dependent on achieving 
the useful result of profit to the practicing party. 
For example, if the practicing party achieves a true 
balance as recited in the claims, wherein no margin 
exists between the risk position and the second series 
of transactions, the practicing party suffers loss since 
some level of administrative costs will be required to 
maintain the system. The practicing party suffers a 
greater loss if the risk position is not determined 
accurately and a negative margin arises.  
 
Thus, if no profit is generated, the claimed 
subject matter requires the practicing party to 
altruistically serve consumers and market par-
ticipants. If such a willing party exists, there is no 
need for a patent. If no such party exists, the claimed 
subject matter fails to achieve a result since no one 
would practice the invention.  
 
The useful result contemplated by the Petitioners 
is profit for the practicing party. Profit is an attribute 
that can be objectively verified. However, claimed 
subject matter must produce the result it purports to 
achieve and it is untenable to suggest that any 
business method can produce profit with the certainty 
required of patent claims. No readily appreciated 
economic principle supports the claimed subject 

32 
matter and no such principle is articulated in the 
Petitioners’ application. 
----------------- ♦ ----------------- 
 
CONCLUSION 
 
The analysis of claimed subject matter for 
conformance with § 101 should be consistent with the 
Court’s precedent. In addition, labels like “law of 
nature” or “abstract idea” should be rejected in favor 
of a precise basis for a conclusion of unpatentability. 
Precedent has defined a framework that can be 
applied to assess claimed subject matter without 
regard to the environment in which it is applied to 
achieve a useful result. The judgment of the court 
of appeals should be reversed. The case should be 
remanded to the U.S. Patent Office to give the 
Petitioners an opportunity to provide evidence that 
the useful result of profit for the practicing party will 
be achieved. 
Respectfully submitted, 
GREGG W. EMCH 
Counsel of Record 
MACMILLAN, SOBANSKI & TODD LLC 
One Maritime Plaza, Fifth Floor 
720 Water Street 
Toledo, Ohio 43604 
419-255-5900 
Attorneys for Amicus Curiae 

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