No. 08-964 
In The 
Supreme Court of the United States 
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On Writ Of Certiorari To The 
United States Court Of Appeals 
For The Federal Circuit 
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----------------- ♦ ----------------- 
  Pro Se 
  Pro Se 
555 California Street 
Suite 1200 
San Francisco, CA 94104 
(415) 875-2410 
OR CALL COLLECT (402) 342-2831 

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 Con-
gressional intent that patents protect “method[s] of 
doing or conducting business.” 35 U.S.C. § 273. 

QUESTIONS PRESENTED ..................................  

TABLE OF CONTENTS .........................................  
TABLE OF AUTHORITIES ...................................  
INTEREST OF AMICI CURIAE ...........................  1 
MENT ..................................................................   

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

TEST .............................................................   

  The Federal Circuit’s Test Does Not 
Encompass Many Software Innova-

B.   The Risk to Software Innovation from 
The Machine-or-Transformation Test ...   16 
CLAIMS .......................................................   17 
Section 101 Is Not a Needle to Be 
Threaded ................................................    17 
A Single Test Cannot Be Used to 
Identify Unpatentable Claims to Laws 
of Nature, Natural Phenomena, and 
Abstract Intellectual Ideas ...................   19 

Broad Software Process Claims Are 
Not Inherently Unpatentable Abstract 
Ideas .......................................................    22 
D.     Selected  Historical  Cases:  Le Roy
O’ReillyCorning, and Tilghman ..........    25 
The Modern Cases: Benson,  Flook
Diehr and the Preemption Doctrine .....   29 
A Multi-Factor Analysis for Section 
101 and Software Process Claims .........   33 
CONCLUSION .......................................................   36 

BMC Resources, Inc. v. Paymentech, L.P., 498 
F.3d 1373 (Fed. Cir. 2007) ....................................... 13 
Corning v. Burden, 56 U.S. 252 (1853) ................ 25, 28 
Cybersource Corporation v. Retail Decisions, 
Inc., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 26056 (N.D. Cal. 
Mar. 27, 2009) ........................................................... 5 
DealerTrack, Inc. v. Huber, 2009 U.S. Dist. 
LEXIS 58125 (C.D. Cal. July 7, 2009) ................ 5, 15 
Diamond v. Diehr, 450 U.S. 175 (1981) ............. passim 
Ex parte Borenstein, No. 2008-3475, 2009 WL 
871128 (B.P.A.I. Mar. 30, 2009) ................................ 3 
Ex parte Greene, No. 2008-4073, 2009 WL 
1134839 (B.P.A.I. Apr. 24, 2009) ............................... 3 
Ex parte Koo, No. 2008-1344, 2008 WL 5054161 
(B.P.A.I. Nov. 26, 2008) ............................................. 3 
Gottschalk v. Benson, 409 U.S. 63 (1972) .......... passim 
Graham v. Deere, 383 U.S. 1 (1966) ........................... 33 
In re Bilski, 545 F.3d 943 (Fed. Cir. 2008) ......... passim 
In re Freeman, 573 F.2d 1237 (C.C.P.A. 1978) ........... 12 
KSR Int’l Co. v. Teleflex Inc., 550 U.S. 398 
(2007) ....................................................................... 33 
Lab. Corp. of Am. Holdings v. Metabolite Labs., 
Inc., 548 U.S. 124 (2006) ......................................... 19 
Le Roy v. Tatham, 55 U.S. 156 (1852) .................. 25, 26 

O’Reilly v. Morse, 56 U.S. 62 (1853) ......... 25, 26, 27, 31 
Parker v. Flook, 437 U.S. 584 (1978) ....... 29, 30, 31, 32 
Tilghman v. Proctor, 102 U.S. 707 (1880) ...... 25, 27, 28 
Versata Software, Inc. v. Sun Microsystems, 
Inc., 2009 WL 1084412 (E.D. Tex. Mar. 31, 
2009) .......................................................................... 5 
35 U.S.C. § 101 ................................................... passim 
35 U.S.C. § 102 ..................................................... 18, 36 
35 U.S.C. § 103 ............................................... 18, 33, 36 
35 U.S.C. § 112 ...................................................... 18, 26 
E. Stringham, Double Patenting, Washington 
D.C., Pacot Publications (1933) .............................. 22 
Webster’s Third New International Dictionary 
(1986) ................................................................... 7, 20 
Supreme Court Rule 37.2(a)......................................... 1 
Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 ...................................... 17 

Robert R. Sachs2 is a patent attorney, with 
seventeen years of experience prosecuting software 
patents for high technology software and companies 
in the Silicon Valley. Mr. Sachs has been responsible 
for crafting patent strategies for a wide range of 
software inventions, including search engines, user 
interfaces, databases, networking protocols, encryp-
tion, compression, video codecs, interactive television, 
predictive modeling systems, as well as inventions 
related to e-commerce, financial services, financial 
instruments, and financial analytics. Mr. Sachs is 
also an inventor on several patents. Mr. Sachs is a 
frequent writer and speaker on patent law issues 
pertaining to software and business methods. Finally, 
Mr. Sachs is the primary patent evaluator for a 
number of patent pools covering a variety of audio, 
video, interactive cable, telecommunications, and 
wide-area networking standards.  
Daniel R. Brownstone is a patent attorney and 
inventor, working for the past decade with numerous 
1  No part of this Brief was authored in whole or in part by 
any of the parties. No monetary contributions to fund the 
preparation or submission of this Brief were made by anyone 
other than the Amici.  
2 In compliance with Sup. Ct. R. 37.2(a), timely notice of 
Amici’s intent to file this Brief was given to counsel of record for 
both parties, and consent granted by both parties. This Brief is 
being filed with the consent of the parties. The parties have also 
filed with the Clerk of this Court general consents to the filing of 
amicus briefs. 

companies in the software, communications and 
bioinformatics industries. Mr. Brownstone guides 
startups and public companies in developing and 
managing patent protection programs to identify and 
protect their core software and business technologies 
in this country and abroad. Mr. Brownstone is also an 
adjunct professor of law, and a frequent speaker on 
topics involving developments in patent law and 
By the nature of their concentration on software 
and financial clients,3  Amici have deep experience 
with how inventors, patent examiners, and the courts 
approach the question of patent eligibility.  
As students of the patent law and 35 U.S.C. § 101 
in particular, Amici’s interest in this case is two-fold: 
First, to illustrate the potential impact of the Federal 
Circuit’s machine-or-transformation test on software-
related inventions; and second, to provide a frame-
work for analysis of patent eligibility that relies on 
the basic principles of patent law and a philosoph-
ically and scientifically sound approach to the nature 
of software innovations and software process claims.  
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    3  Amici submits this brief pro se, and the views expressed 
here are not necessarily those of their firm or clients. 

This Court has long recognized that the patent 
eligibility statute, 35 U.S.C. § 101 (“§ 101”), should be 
read broadly, with limited exceptions. These limited 
exceptions include processes claiming laws of nature, 
scientific phenomena or abstract intellectual ideas. 
These exclusions apply to inventions and discoveries 
of the modern Information Age just as surely as they 
did to those of the Industrial Age. The challenge is to 
“establish rules that enable a conscientious patent 
lawyer to determine with a fair degree of accuracy 
which, if any, program-related inventions will be 
patentable.”  Diamond v. Diehr, 450 U.S. 175, 219 
(1981) (Stevens, J., dissenting).  
The Federal Circuit’s machine-or-transformation 
test, derived from this Court’s decisions, is certainly 
test for identifying patent-eligible subject matter. But 
it cannot be, as the Federal Circuit held, the only test. 
Such a requirement is not only inconsistent with the 
precedent of this Court, but fails to recognize that a 
“one-test-fits-all” rule cannot be easily applied across 
the three categories of exclusion – laws of nature, 
scientific phenomena, and abstract ideas. Even 
within a single category like abstract ideas, a single 
rigid test is not easily conformed to the vast array of 
technologies from which innovation springs. 
Software inventions are an important illustrative 
example of why the machine-or-transformation test 
should not be the definitive test for patent eligibility. 

Software inventions have long been recognized as 
deserving of patent protection, and it is software 
innovation that drives much of the modern economy. 
But software, by its very nature, abstracts from the 
physical world, both in its design and operation. To 
the extent that there is a test for whether a software 
process claim is patent eligible, that test must be able 
to distinguish between claims for purely abstract 
intellectual ideas, which are not patentable, and 
claims that use abstractions to achieve results having 
meaningful “real world” applications, which are 
patent eligible. 
Amici take no position on whether claim 1 of 
Bilski’s application, or so called “business methods,” 
are patent eligible. Rather, Amici’s concern is that 
the machine-or-transformation test threatens to 
undermine patent protection for software. Even 
though the Federal Circuit declined “to adopt a 
broad exclusion over software,” in the short time 
since their decision, the machine-or-transformation 
test has been applied to software inventions in 
contradictory and inconsistent manner at every level 
of the patent system: by patent examiners, by the 
Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences,4 and by 
4  Compare  Ex parte Borenstein, No. 2008-3475, 2009 WL 
871128 (B.P.A.I. Mar. 30, 2009) (information stored in a data-
base provides sufficient structure to meet machine prong); Ex 
parte Greene, No. 2008-4073, 2009 WL 1134839 (B.P.A.I. Apr. 24, 
2009) (recitation of “vector processor” insufficient); Ex parte Koo, 
No. 2008-1344, 2008 WL 5054161 (B.P.A.I. Nov. 26, 2008) 
(Continued on following page) 

various District courts.5 The Federal Circuit’s new 
test disturbs the settled expectations of the software 
industry by calling into question the validity of tens 
of thousands of issued patents – protection that such 
inventions have enjoyed under this Court’s broad 
understanding of patent-eligible subject matter. 
The machine-or-transformation test should not 
be the only tool to test patent eligibility, because not 
every invention in every field will fit the same mold. 
Rather, the Court can reaffirm the law of patentable 
subject matter in its broad, open-ended form, 
recognizing the different technological contexts in 
which process claims appear. Applying a variety of 
balancing factors provides the flexibility necessary to 
leave “room for the revelations of the new, onrushing 
technology,”  Gottschalk v. Benson, 409 U.S. 63, 71 
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(recitation of a “relational database management system” insuf-
5  DealerTrack, Inc. v. Huber, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 58125 
(C.D. Cal. July 7, 2009);  Cybersource Corporation v. Retail 
Decisions, Inc., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 26056 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 27, 
2009); compare Versata Software, Inc. v. Sun Microsystems, Inc., 
2009 WL 1084412 (E.D. Tex. Mar. 31, 2009). 

The primary concern of this case is what appears 
to be an overly broad patent claim, potentially giving 
the patentee a greater exclusive right than he 
deserves. The Federal Circuit was attempting to de-
termine whether Bernard Bilski’s claim was nothing 
more than a claim for an “abstract intellectual 
concept.”  In re Bilski, 545 F.3d 943, 952 (Fed. Cir. 
2008). That court attempted to find a single test that 
embodied this Court’s prohibition against patents 
claiming laws of nature, natural phenomenon, and 
abstract ideas. But this Court has recognized the 
difficulty in resolving questions like this, and has 
cautioned against assuming that even its own 
multiple different approaches are dispositive: “We do 
not hold that no process patent could ever qualify if it 
did not meet the requirements of our prior prec-
edents.” Gottschalk v. Benson, 409 U.S. 63, 71 (1972); 
see also Bilski, 545 F.3d at 979 (Newman, J., dissenting) 
(“Nonetheless, the Federal Circuit now so holds”). 
The Federal Circuit unfortunately did not per-
ceive the larger view that this Court has had. In 
answering the narrow question before it, the Federal 
Circuit turned this Court’s identification of two 
possible sufficient conditions – that a process claim is 
patentable if it transforms its subject matter to a dif-
ferent state or thing or if it is machine implemented – 
into  necessary  conditions, that such a claim is 

patentable  if and only if it is either machine 
implemented or performs this transformation. The 
Federal Circuit took what this Court described in 
Benson as the “clue”6 to patentability, id., and turned 
it into a “definitive test.” This legal legerdemain has 
been exhaustively analyzed by others, and that 
analysis will not be repeated here. See  In re Bilski
545 F.3d at 979 (Newman, J., dissenting); id. at 1012 
(Rader, J., dissenting). 
The machine-or-transformation test is not an 
incorrect test, but it is a limited one. If a process 
claim meets the machine-or-transformation test, then 
the claim is patent eligible. However, the converse is 
not true: if a claim fails the machine-or-transformation 
test, it should not be automatically deemed patent 
ineligible. Indeed, the test fails to encompass many 
software innovations that have traditionally been 
considered patent eligible, as illustrated below. 
A. The Federal Circuit’s Test Does Not 
Encompass Many Software Innova-
Software innovation covers such diverse fields 
as operating systems, memory management, com-
puter programming languages, communications pro-
tocols, networking topologies, databases, information 
6  A clue is “the information or key that guides through an 
intricate procedure or a maze of difficulties” Webster’s Third 
New International Dictionary (1986). 

retrieval, graphics processing, video processing, color 
processing, fonts, animation, word processing, email 
applications, web browsers, navigation systems, and 
of course, graphical user interfaces. The U.S. Patent 
Classification System has over one thousand specific 
classes directed to software and computer related 
inventions. Any test for patent eligible process claims 
should take into account this diversity. 
Significant problems in applying the machine-or-
transformation test to software inventions arise from 
the transformation prong of the test. The Federal 
Circuit recognized that electronic signals and 
electronically-manipulated data are “the raw mate-
rials of many information-age processes” In re Bilski
545 F.3d at 962, and stated that “transformation” 
could under at least some circumstances include 
transformation of data that is representative of 
physical and tangible objects. Id. at 962-63.7  
But a narrow construction of the test to require 
that the data being transformed always represent 
macroscopic physical and tangible objects – objects 
that can be seen and touched – ignores the reality 
that many useful software inventions use and trans-
form data that does not have clear tangible corre-
lates. Rather, many software applications operate on 
7  In the court’s example, the data was transformed into a 
visual depiction on a display. Id. The court did not clarify 
whether the visual depiction itself was required to meet its test, 
or whether transforming data representative of physical objects 
without subsequent display would have been sufficient. 

data representing information instead of physical 
objects, and it is the transformation of that infor-
mation that provides the ultimate practical applica-
tion of the software – the practical application that 
this Court has identified time and again as a 
touchstone of patentability. Several examples illus-
trate this point. 
1. Graphical User Interface Inven-
A “graphical user interface,” or GUI, refers 
generally to the way in which people interact with 
modern personal computers and other electronic 
devices. The Microsoft Window XP and Linux 
operating systems are each examples of software that 
provide GUIs. Since the mid 1960s, the U.S. Patent 
and Trademark Office (“PTO”) has granted over 
22,000 patents in the GUI field.8 
A GUI’s underlying functionality is what makes 
it more than just pictures behind glass. Using a 
mouse to drag a file from one folder to another is a 
simple example of the relationship between a GUI’s 
visual components and its underlying functionality. 
GUIs are typically protected with process claims 
that describe those functional operations. GUIs play 
a vital role in differentiating products in the 
8 GUIs are part of class 715 of the U.S. Patent Classi-
fication System. User interface inventions are also found in a 
variety of other classes.  

marketplace, and patent protection for new and 
useful functionality provided by GUIs is thus 
important to software industry.  
  Under the machine-or-transformation test’s 
transformation prong, data being transformed must 
be representative of physical objects. But it is unclear 
what data must be displayed in a GUI to be con-
sidered “representative,” and which “physical tangi-
ble objects” have to be represented. For example, it is 
common now to describe files stored on a computer as 
being in different “folders.” But clearly there are no 
physical folders inside a computer, nor could one 
locate a “trash can” or “recycle bin” on a hard drive. 
Each of these is an abstraction of the way computers 
store information; they are not themselves “physical 
tangible objects.” Under the machine-or-transformation 
test, however, these abstractions may be fatal to 
patent eligibility. 
An “abstraction” is not the same as an “abstract 
intellectual idea.”9 Software designers and program-
mers regularly use abstractions to represent the 
objects, functions and interactions that make up 
modern computing. The abstraction of a “folder” is 
useful to represent something that stores a number of 
distinct “files” or “documents.” This does not, how-
ever, make a “folder” merely an abstract intellectual 
9  See discussion infra Part II.C. 

To be sure, a “document” shown on the screen can 
be printed and thus become a tangible piece of paper. 
But if a “document” is created electronically and 
never printed, it cannot represent a physical object, 
because the physical object does not and will never 
exist – and yet, surely, the document is more than an 
abstract intellectual idea. 
Similarly, under the machine-or-transformation 
test, it is not clear what counts as a “transformation” 
of data in a user interface. To the user, being able to 
edit a document, construct a spreadsheet, design a 
web page, or even search the Internet for documents, 
all are useful operations that take a given state of the 
world, and upon user input, change that state in 
some degree, however small. The machine-or-
transformation test imposes an unguided qualitative 
assessment of whether such a transformation is “good 
That process claims to user interfaces may be 
novel and useful, and yet excluded under the Federal 
Circuit’s test, illustrates that test’s unsuitability to 
software applications. Intended by the Federal 
Circuit to be applied generally to all technologies, it 
fails to appreciate the nuances of any. 
2. Color Processing Inventions 
Output devices, such as computer monitors, 
television screens, printers, and projectors cannot yet 
output (e.g., display, print, or project) the entire range 
of colors that humans can perceive. The portion of the 

color space that a particular device can output is 
called its color gamut. 
Digital images are represented by pixels, and 
each pixel has a set of data values that represent the 
“color” of the pixel. In many images, pixels have 
colors that are “outside” the gamut of the device the 
pixels are being shown on. To create the best possible 
output for a given image, it is necessary to determine 
how to change the original color values of the pixels 
into color values that the device can output. The 
particular process (algorithm10) selected for the trans-
formation impacts the final quality of the output 
image. Solutions to this problem are useful in fields 
as diverse as medical imaging, digital cameras, and 
high-definition broadcasting of football games. There 
are over 500 patents that address various aspects of 
solving this problem. 
  A narrow construction of the machine-or-
transformation test could find claims on innovative 
10 There is considerable case law about “algorithms.” An 
algorithm is a specific sequence of operations or steps that 
accomplish a task. Not all algorithms are “mathematical 
algorithms,” which are algorithms that are solely mathematical 
operations.  In re Freeman, 573 F.2d 1237, 1246 (C.C.P.A. 1978) 
(“Because every process may be characterized as “a step-by-step 
procedure * 

* for accomplishing some end,” a refusal to 
recognize that Benson was concerned only with mathematical 
algorithms leads to the absurd view that the Court was reading 
the word “process” out of the statute.”) (emphasis in original). 
Algorithms  per se do not exist in nature, they are created by 
humans to achieve tasks.  

color gamut mapping solutions unpatentable as 
neither tied to a particular machine, nor trans-
formative of data representing physical objects. First, 
algorithms used to solve the color gamut problem can 
be executed on a variety of computers and processors, 
and thus need not be tied to a “particular machine” 
other than a general-purpose computer.  
Bilski’s requirement that data represent 
physical tangible objects seems misplaced: the data 
here represents the “color” of pixels. The numerical 
representation of color is not what most people would 
consider “physical and tangible.”11 
Third, if the test requires a claim to recite that 
the resulting transformation is displayed, then this 
rule ignores two significant facts: that the algorithms 
can be used for conversion without display, and more 
importantly, for infringement purposes, that the 
entity that performs the color conversion may not be 
the entity that outputs the image. For example, a 
first company may perform a pre-processing service, 
which performs the appropriate conversion and stores 
it on disk. A second company later purchases the 
converted data and displays it. By requiring a claim 
to the conversion technology to include the displaying 
step, both parties described above would avoid any 
liability for infringement. See BMC Resources, Inc. v. 
11  Of course, scientifically, color in the sense of light exists 
as photons, and electromagnetic waves, which have measureable 
physical properties. 

Paymentech, L.P., 498 F.3d 1373 (Fed. Cir. 2007) (no 
direct infringement where multiple parties individ-
ually performed only limited steps of the process 
3. Encryption and Compression Algo-
Data compression algorithms are what make it 
possible to store 7,000 songs on a digital audio player, 
a full-length motion picture on a DVD, and 1,000 
photographs on a memory card. Data compression 
algorithms generally operate by identifying statistical 
patterns that occur in the data being compressed. By 
replacing some of these patterns with shorter 
patterns, the original file is “transformed” into the 
compressed file, which uses up less space in memory 
or on disk. 
Encryption algorithms secure everything from 
ATM machines transactions to military communica-
tions to Internet transactions, including e-commerce 
online banking, and securities trading. Encryption 
algorithms make data files unreadable by those 
without the means to undo the encryption. 
Many of these compression and encryption 
algorithms are agnostic as to the “meaning” of the 
data they are transforming, and do not require that 
the data represent tangible objects. What the data 
represents is irrelevant: a simple compression 
algorithm will compress an image of an elephant, as 
well as the full text of James Joyce’s Ulysses, or a 

spreadsheet of random numbers. An encryption 
algorithm will secure the contents of a DVD just as 
effectively as it will protect a set of passwords. But 
under the Federal Circuit’s rule, these algorithms 
would be patent eligible only if the underlying data 
represents physical tangible objects, and not where 
the data represents letters and numbers without a 
tangible analogue – even though the algorithm proc-
esses both sets of data in exactly the same manner. If, 
as here, the innovation is in the mechanism – or 
algorithm – for compressing or encrypting, then a test 
for eligibility that depends on what underlying data 
is being compressed or secured neither furthers the 
advancement of the technology, nor meaningfully 
tests whether the subject matter is directed only to 
an abstract idea. 
With respect to the machine prong of the test, 
like the color management algorithms, these algo-
rithms do not rely for their effectiveness on a specific 
physical device, but can be employed by general 
purpose computers. Decisions since Bilski have held 
that a general purpose computer is not sufficient to 
meet the machine prong of the Federal Circuit’s test. 
See, e.g.,  DealerTrack, Inc. v. Huber, 2009 U.S. Dist. 
LEXIS 58125, at *12-13 (C.D. Cal. July 7, 2009) 
(“Under  Bilski and the recent decisions interpreting 
it, the central processor in this case cannot constitute 
a ‘particular machine’ ”). 
Thus, there are many software innovations that 
are new, useful and deserving of patent protection,  

but which would be excluded if the machine-or-
transformation test were the sole basis for deter-
mining eligibility. 
B.  The Risk to Software Innovation from 
The Machine-or-Transformation Test  
The above examples of software innovations are 
broadly representative of the wide range of software 
innovations in the following ways: 
They solve problems that only arise from 
human innovation in the first place: 
graphical user interfaces solve the 
problem of how to interact with a 
computer; color management solves the 
problem of how to output images on 
devices created by humans; encryption 
and compression solve the problem of 
how to store and secure digital data on 
human-created devices; 
They provide useful benefits even when 
the data they act on does not represent 
physical tangible objects;  
They do not require the visual depiction 
of data that represents physical objects 
in order to provide useful benefits. 
Thus, if the sole test remains that a patent-
eligible process must transform data representative 
of physical objects or be tied to a machine other than 
a general-purpose computer, many inventions already 
patented and many yet to come would be without 

protection. The risk of invalidation of existing 
software disrupts the settled expectations of those 
inventors who pursued – and obtained – patent pro-
tection prior to the Bilski  decision. To limit patent-
ability so narrowly would discourage innovation in 
some of the fields most important to our modern 
A. Section 101 Is Not a Needle to Be 
Section 101 implements the Constitutional 
invitation of Article I, Section 8, Clause 8, as an open 
call to all inventors to come forward with their 
discoveries in exchange for an exclusive right. Section 
101 defines the scope of protection for what by 
definition is now unknown and cannot be foreseen – 
inventions that have not yet come to be.  
While its limited exclusions turn away at the 
outset those claims to the scientific principles and 
abstract intellectual ideas that are free to all, the 
remainder must withstand the tests of novelty, non-
obviousness, and enablement provided by other 
sections of the Act. It is there that overly broad claims 
are best identified and challenged.  
Section 101 is too blunt an instrument with 
which to consistently differentiate between a patent 
claim that is properly broad, and one that is overly 
broad. A patent claim can be so broad that it reads on 

the past, and hence is not novel.12 Alternatively, a 
patent claim can be so broad that it reads on the 
unknown future, capturing something that the 
inventor has not yet invented – in which case the 
patentee has failed to fully enable his invention. The 
appropriate way to prevent these types of overly 
broad patents is application of the statutory require-
ments for novelty, non-obviousness, and enablement. 
Section 101 is also a poor tool for differentiation if 
only because humans cannot foresee – let alone judge 
well – what will be invented tomorrow. What we can 
do is make judgments based on evidence from the 
past and the present, and this is precisely what 
§§ 102, 103 and 112 allow us to do.  
There will always be cases of patent applications 
seeking claims on subject matter that exists outside 
the reach of human ingenuity. How else will the 
boundary of knowledge and invention be advanced if 
it is not occasionally pushed? The Benson Court was 
sensitive to this conundrum, and made clear that it 
was leaving “room for the revelations of the new, 
onrushing technology.” Benson, 409 U.S. at 71.  
To balance these concerns – between over-
reaching rights of inventors and the need to keep the 
12 Indeed,  Benson hinted at precisely that: “Here the 
‘process’ claim is so abstract and sweeping as to cover both 
known and unknown uses of the BCD to pure-binary conver-
sion.” Benson, 409 U.S. at 69 (emphasis added). 

door open to future innovations, this Court should 
maintain the framework that it has adopted over the 
past 100 years, using a mode of analysis based not on 
bright line rules and talismanic formulations, but 
guided by first principles of patent law. 
B. A Single Test Cannot Be Used to 
Identify Unpatentable Claims to Laws 
of Nature, Natural Phenomena, and 
Abstract Intellectual Ideas  
The difficulty of determining patent eligibility 
under § 101 and its predecessors is evidenced by the 
numerous doctrines that have been adopted by this 
Court, the Federal Circuit, and its predecessor, the 
Court of Customs and Patent Appeals, over the last 
200 years. The multiple doctrines evince the need for 
a flexible framework that can accommodate the wide 
variety of different issues presented by patent claims 
at the boundary of ingenuity and the margins of 
Many courts have treated the exclusions from 
patent-eligible subject matter – laws of nature, 
natural phenomena, and abstract ideas – as one and 
the same, even though the case before them 
implicated only a single one of these categories. As 
Justice Breyer observed in Lab. Corp. of Am. 
Holdings v. Metabolite Labs., Inc., these are three 
different categories, and difficult to define precisely. 
548 U.S. 124, 134 (2006) (Breyer, J., joined by Stevens 
and Souter, JJ., dissenting from dismissal of writ of 

certiorari). Logically, different categories of subject 
matter must be treated using different con-
siderations. Indeed, apparatus claims are treated 
differently from process claims for purposes of § 101 
analysis – so too must claims that implicate a law of 
nature, for example, be treated differently from those 
that implicate an abstract intellectual idea.  
Even accepting Justice Breyer’s caveat, some 
basic differences between the categories can be noted. 
“Law of nature” evokes a sense of immutable, universal, 
generalized rules of how the universe – or “Nature,” 
or “reality” – works.13 The laws and constants of 
physics, Maxwell’s equations for electromagnetic 
fields, the speed of light, and pi are illustrative. By 
contrast, “natural phenomenon” connotes a naturally-
occurring physical event or condition, not produced by 
humans. Lightning, tornadoes, the aurora borealis, 
the 17-year cycle of the cicada, solar eclipses and the 
“green flash” are all examples of natural phenomena. 
These two categories are quite different in kind: the 
former captures the eternal, the fundamental aspect 
of reality, while the latter captures events that 
occur in the physical world, and that are contingent 
upon the particulars of geography, biology, physics, 
13 A law of nature is “a generalized statement of natural 
processes; one of chief generalizations of science variously con-
ceived as imposed upon nature by the Creator, as representing 
an intrinsic orderliness of nature or the necessary conformity of 
phenomena to reason and understanding.” Webster’s Third New 
International Dictionary (1986). 

etc. Natural phenomena certainly comport with the 
laws of nature, but they are not themselves laws of 
The Federal Circuit incorrectly assumed that the 
three categories of exclusion could be treated as one, 
under the gloss of a “fundamental principle.” In re 
Bilski, 545 F.3d at n.5 (“As used in this opinion, 
‘fundamental principle’ means ‘laws of nature, 
natural phenomena, and abstract ideas’ ”). That error 
was compounded by a misstatement of this Court’s 
precedent.  Id. at 954 (“The Supreme Court, however, 
has enunciated a definitive test to determine whether 
a process claim is tailored narrowly enough to 
encompass only a particular application of a 
fundamental principle rather than to pre-empt the 
principle itself”). 
The Federal Circuit’s assumption ignores the 
very diverse manifestations of these categories and 
how they may arise in process claims. A test that 
perhaps captures a process claim for a law of nature 
itself – by identifying its inclusion of a fundamental 
construct of physics and nothing more – would hardly 
do well to identify a claim for nothing more than a 
transient event or a naturally occurring substance.  
Similarly, an abstract idea is not inherently a law 
of nature or natural phenomenon, and so claims that 
seem too abstract must be treated with their own 
appropriate considerations. Of these three areas, the 
one that most directly impacts the patentability of 
software is the exclusion of abstract intellectual 

C. Broad Software Process Claims Are 
Not Inherently Unpatentable Abstract 
Claims by definition are abstractions and neces-
sarily so. This has been long recognized: 
The difficulty which American courts . . . 
have had . . . goes back to the primitive 
thought that an “invention” upon which the 
patent gives protection is something tangi-
ble. The physical embodiment or disclosure, 
which, in itself is something tangible is 
confused with the definition or claim to the 
inventive novelty, and this definition or claim 
or monopoly, also sometimes called “inven-
tion” in one of that word’s meanings is not 
something tangible, but is an abstraction. 
Definitions are always abstractions. This 
primitive confusion of “invention” in the 
sense of physical embodiment with “inven-
tion” in the sense of definition of the 
patentable amount of novelty, survives to the 
present day, not only in the courts, but 
among some of the examiners in the Patent 
E. Stringham, Double Patenting, Washington D.C., 
Pacot Publications (1933) (emphasis added). 
There is a difference between an abstract idea 
and an abstraction: An abstraction is a generali-
zation, it is a definition that identifies the principle 
aspects or features of the concept. The concept of 
“dog” is itself an abstraction from the details of any 

specific dog. But a “dog” is clearly not an abstract 
intellectual idea.  
Given that philosophers have debated the nature 
of abstract ideas for more than 2000 years – the 
problem of universals – it is not surprising that the 
Federal Circuit did not cut this Gordian Knot. Nor 
does  Amici presume to set forth a definitive frame-
work for analysis. Rather, Amici attempts to set forth 
a sufficient basis for aiding the Court in distin-
guishing between claims for abstract intellectual 
ideas and claims that are merely broad in scope. 
All human language – and all patent claims – 
make use of concepts. Concepts such as “house,” 
“dog,” “red,” and “father” are used to reference 
physical objects, their attributes, and relationships. 
We understand what the word dog means, because we 
generalize from our experience with individual dogs. 
In philosophical terms these concepts are called “con-
crete concepts.” The other class of concepts involves 
abstract concepts. “Equality,” “fairness,” “justice,” and 
“humility” are abstract intellectual ideas pertaining 
to humans and social relationships. Mathematics is 
one domain of abstract ideas, with prime numbers, 
groups and sets, and the Pythagorean Theorem, being 
simple examples. Thus, “dog” may be an abstraction, 
but it is certainly not an “intellectual” one. The 
concern of this Court has properly been on abstract 
intellectual ideas – ideas, the core meaning of which 
is not simply a generalization of the attributes of 
physical objects and experiences, but rather ideas 

that do not have any physical representation in the 
Software process claims – even when they do not 
recite real world-entities – are not claims to abstract 
intellectual ideas. Rather, software process claims 
describe an invention in the very same manner that 
computer programmers develop computer programs. 
Computer programs use abstractions to define the 
relevant characteristics and features of the data and 
the operations of the program. Software process 
claims also use abstractions – indeed sometimes the 
very same abstractions as in the computer program – 
to define the relevant steps of the invention. Just as a 
computer program itself will not be an abstract 
intellectual idea, so too a software process claim does 
not inherently describe an abstract intellectual idea. 
There is a difference between a broad process 
claim and a claim that is for an abstract intellectual 
idea. A broad claim is acceptable, and may protect 
patentable subject matter, as long as it is definite and 
supported by the disclosure. Only where the subject 
matter of the claim as a whole is directed to 
intellectual ideas of the type described above would it 
fail to be patent eligible.  
And this is the actual teaching of the historical 
patent law cases that were thought to invalidate 
claims as unpatentable subject matter. Instead, this 
Court’s jurisprudence can be explained not as 
rejecting claims as nothing more than “abstract” per 
se, but rather as filtering out claims that were 

abstract in the sense of being so overly broad that 
they were anticipated, indefinite or lacking enable-
D.  Selected Historical Cases: Le Roy, 
O’Reilly, Corning, and Tilghman 
Several early Supreme Court cases that touch 
upon patent eligibility and are often cited in the 
modern case law are Le Roy v. Tatham, 55 U.S. 156 
(1852);  O’Reilly v. Morse, 56 U.S. 62 (1853); Corning 
v. Burden, 56 U.S. 252 (1853); and Tilghman v. 
Proctor, 102 U.S. 707 (1880). Although these cases 
touch on patenting abstract ideas, their actual hold-
ings did not in fact turn on that issue. 
Benson and Diehr cite Le Roy for the 
proposition that “A principle, in the abstract, is a 
fundamental truth; an original cause; a motive; and 
these cannot be patented, as no one can claim in 
either of them an exclusive right.”14 Le Roy, 55 U.S. at 
175. The actual holding of Le Roy is that the trial 
14  This statement was dicta and expressly so, as the Court 
firmly stated that the issue of whether “The newly discovered 
principle, to wit, that lead could be forced, by extreme pressure, 
when in a set or solid state, to cohere and form a pipe, was not 
in the patent, and the question whether it was or was not the 
subject of a patent was not in the case.”  Le Roy, 55 U.S. at 171 
(emphasis added). The quoted language itself came from the 
trial court, which specifically admonished the jury that “The 
word ‘principle’ is used by elementary writers on patent subjects, 
and sometimes in adjudications of courts, with such a want of 
precision in its application, as to mislead.” Id. at 174. 

court erred in instructing the jury that it was not to 
consider the novelty of Tatham’s machinery when 
judging whether the patent was valid: “We think 
there was error in the above instruction, that the 
novelty of the combination of the machinery, specif-
ically claimed by the patentees as their invention, 
was not a material fact for the jury.” Id. at 177. The 
Le Roy Court did not hold Tatham’s patent invalid for 
covering a “principle,” rather it sent the patent back 
to the jury to determine whether the claim was 
invalid for want of novelty. Thus, the question of 
whether the patent claim was for an abstract 
principle did not arise in Le Roy
O’Reilly Court states that a patent on 
“principle” would be “void because the discovery of a 
principle in natural philosophy or physical science, is 
not patentable.” 56 U.S. at 116 (emphasis added). The 
context makes clear that the use of “principle” is in 
reference to universal laws or “scientific principles,” 
id. at 107, in other words, laws of nature, rather than 
“abstract ideas.” The O’Reilly Court in fact decided 
the validity of the patent by what today would be 
understood as a failure of enablement under § 112: 
In fine, he claims an exclusive right to use a 
manner and process which he has not 
described and indeed had not invented, and 
therefore could not describe when he 
obtained his patent. The court is of opinion 
that the claim is too broad, and not 
warranted by law.  
O’Reilly, 56 U.S. at 113 (emphasis added). 

Now in this case, there is no description but 
one, of a process by which signs or letters may 
be printed at a distance. . . . The words of the 
acts of Congress above quoted show that no 
patent can lawfully issue upon such a claim. 
For  he claims what he has not described in 
the manner required by law.  
Id. at 120 (emphasis added). 
In contrast, in Tilghman, the process claim was 
patentable – yet the breadth of Tilghman’s claim is 
astounding to the modern reader: 
I claim as of my invention, the manu-
facturing of fat acids and glycerine from fatty 
bodies by the action of water at a high 
temperature and pressure.  
102 U.S. at 709. 
This claim is no different in form from Morse’s 
invalid claim in O’Reilly, as it describes the desired 
effect – manufacturing of fats and glycerine as 
compared to Morse’s “making or printing intelligible 
characters” – by a generic mode of operation – the 
action of water at high temperature and pressure as 
compared to Morse’s “motive power of the electric or 
galvanic current.”  
What saved Tilghman’s claim from invalidity? 
The Court plainly explains: “It [Tilghman’s process] is 
clearly pointed out in the specification, and one 
particular mode of applying it and carrying it into 
effect is described in detail. . . . The true construction 
of this claim is to be sought by comparing it, as have 

already done, with the context of the specification; 
with the statement of the patentee.” Tilghman, 102 
U.S. at 729. Indeed, the Court quotes Tilghman’s 
specification at considerable length to demonstrate 
the completeness of the disclosure. Seeid. at 718-21. 
In short, Morse’s claim was not abstract, but 
overly broad – and invalid because he did not provide 
an enabling description commensurate with the 
breadth of the claim. Tilghman’s equally broad claim 
was acceptable because he provided a specific 
description of the apparatus and mode of operation 
for his invention.  
Finally, the problem in Corning was that that the 
claim was indefinite – not that it was abstract or for a 
natural principle: “It is true that the patentee, after 
describing his machine, has set forth his claim in 
rather ambiguous and equivocal terms which might 
be construed to mean either a process or machine.” 
Corning, 56 U.S. at 269. The Court held that the trial 
court erred in instructing the jury that the claim was 
for a process. Id. at 270.  
In sum, while many of this Court’s early 
decisions discuss the problem of process claims, a 
careful reading of the cases suggests that they did not 
actually hold any process claim unpatentable for 
being directed to an abstract intellectual idea. 

E. The Modern Cases: Benson, Flook, 
Diehr and the Preemption Doctrine 
This Court’s modern § 101 jurisprudence applies 
its earlier precedent to the modern computer age and 
the patentability of computer-related inventions. The 
cases evidence a similar concern with respect to 
overly broad claims, rather than claims to mere 
abstract ideas. 
 Benson was this Court’s first assessment of 
patentable subject matter as applied to software and 
digital computers. It is also the first case to raise the 
issue of whether a claim would “pre-empt” all uses of 
a mathematical formula: “The mathematical formula 
involved here has no substantial practical application 
except in connection with a digital computer, which 
means that if the judgment below is affirmed, the 
patent would wholly pre-empt the mathematical 
formula and in practical effect would be a patent on 
the algorithm itself.” 409 U.S. at 71-72. 
As this sentence makes absolutely clear, “pre-
emption” is a conclusion, it is not an analysis itself. 
The preemption concern arose from the very specific 
problem before that Court, that “a scientific truth, or 
the mathematical expression of it, is not a patentable 
invention.”  Id.  at 67 (citing MacKay Radio & Tele-
graph Co. v. Radio Corp. of Am., 306 U.S. 86, 94 
(1939)). For the purposes of its analysis, the Benson 
Court appears to have adopted Webster’s very narrow 
definition of an algorithm: “A procedure for solving a 
given type of mathematical problem is known as an 

‘algorithm.’ ” 409 U.S. at 65. The Court correctly 
appreciated that claim 13, which recited purely math-
ematical steps, was in essence the “mathematical 
expression” of a “scientific truth,” since the rules 
governing the conversion of BCD into binary are 
determined purely by number theory, not by human 
ingenuity. The Court’s analysis thus equated Benson’s 
particular “mathematical algorithm” with a “math-
ematical expression” of a scientific truth: “In Benson

. we concluded that such an algorithm, or 
mathematical formula, is like a law of nature, which 
cannot be the subject of a patent.” Diehr, 450 U.S. at 
While that conclusion was appropriate given 
Benson’s claim, its premise is not true as a general 
rule. Not all mathematical algorithms are “scientific 
truths” like the relationship between BCD and 
binary. Mathematical algorithms (or formulas) for 
routing of cell phone calls, scheduling airplanes or 
elevators, or ranking Internet search results are not 
“scientific truths.”  
Flook decision also assumed, that like the 
algorithm for BCD to binary conversion, all mathe-
matical algorithms expressed “scientific truths,” and 
as such they are “one of the basic tools of scientific 
and technological work,” Parker v. Flook, 437 U.S. 584, 
591 (1987) (citing Benson 409 U.S. at 67) (internal 
quotation marks omitted). This then explains the 
basis of Flook’s  rule that the algorithm must be 
“treated as though it were a familiar part of the prior 
art.” That rule is necessary only if all mathematical 

algorithms in fact express scientific truths, i.e., 
something that was “true” before it was discovered, 
and thus part of the prior art. In his dissent in Diehr
Justice Stevens explained that the Flook Court’s 
reasons for finding Flook’s claim unpatentable were 
very basic: “The essence of the claimed discovery . . . 
was an algorithm that could be programmed on a 
digital computer.” Diehr, 450 U.S. at 209 (Stevens, J., 
dissenting)Justice Stevens makes clear that using a 
digital computer to solve a problem is not the stuff of 
patentability, urging the majority to adopt “an une-
quivocal holding that no program-related invention is 
a patentable process under § 101 unless it makes a 
contribution to the art that is not dependent entirely 
on the utilization of a computer.” Id. at 219. This view 
makes sense only on the assumption that mathematical 
algorithms implemented by computers always express 
scientific truths, an assumption that is not correct. 
Flook’s  analysis need not be discarded however, 
because the decision is consistent with the funda-
mental concerns of O’Reilly:  a failure of enablement 
and thus of the constitutional bargain. As in O’Reilly
Flook claimed more broadly than he enabled: 
The patent application does not purport to 
explain how to select the appropriate margin 
of safety, the weighting factor, or any of the 
other variables. Nor does it purport to 
contain any disclosure relating to the 
chemical processes at work, the monitoring 
of process variables, or the means of setting 
off an alarm or adjusting an alarm system. 

All that it provides is a formula for com-
puting an updated alarm limit.  
Flook, 437 U.S. at 586. 
Diehr Court made this very same point:  
We were careful to note in Flook that the 
patent application did not purport to explain 
how the variables used in the formula were 
to be selected, nor did the application contain 
any disclosure relating to chemical processes 
at work or the means of setting off an alarm 
or adjusting the alarm limit. All the appli-
cation provided was a “formula for comput-
ing an updated alarm limit.”  
Diehr, 450 U.S. at 193 n.14. 
Flook, too, lends support to a conclusion 
that software patent claims are not inherently 
abstract, but must be evaluated for their breadth in 
light of the disclosure.  
Diehr also follows the preemption approach, but 
rather than dissecting the claim as in Flook, that 
Court considered the claim as a whole: “they do not 
seek to preempt the use of that equation. Rather, they 
seek only to foreclose from others the use of that 
equation in conjunction with all of the other steps in 
their claimed process” Diehr, 450 U.S. at 187. Diehr is 
consistent with the mode of analysis presented here, 
that the claim must be interpreted as a whole and 
with regard to what those of skill in the art would 
understand based upon the inventor’s disclosure. 
Preemption is not itself an analysis of the claim, but a 

conclusion to be drawn only after the claim is 
understood as a whole in view of the disclosure and 
knowledge of one of skill in the art. 
F. A 
Analysis for Section 101 
and Software Process Claims 
This Court has recognized in the obviousness 
context of § 103 that a “one-test-fits-all” approach to 
patentability is not appropriate. See KSR Int’l Co. v. 
Teleflex Inc., 550 U.S. 398 (2007); Graham v. Deere
383 U.S. 1 (1966). It stands to reason that a similarly 
flexible test would be appropriate when considering 
whether a claim is directed to excluded subject 
matter, given the diversity of technologies to which a 
claim may be related, and the differences in the types 
of exclusions under § 101.  
A multi-factor approach to § 101 employs no one 
test to judge the patent eligibility of a process claim. 
Instead, the claim is evaluated by multiple balancing 
considerations, some of which may include: 
coverage of merely intellectual  concepts 
versus coverage of concrete concepts and 
•  preemption of applications of the 
claimed invention versus the available 
arena in which others can invent in the 
•  the breadth of the claim versus the 
definiteness and enablement provided by 
the specification; 

•  coverage of laws of nature versus 
coverage of applications of such laws for 
useful purposes; and 
•  coverage of natural phenomena per se 
versus the use of natural phenomena for 
particular ends.  
As applied to software claims, these factors 
would likely lead to a conclusion that most are within 
the dominion of § 101. While a software process may 
have no practical application “except in connection 
with a digital computer,” Benson,  409 U.S. 71, a 
modern analysis cannot stop there. Rather, the patent 
eligibility of a software process claim should be 
considered in view of the above factors.  
First, even in the absence of explicit recitations of 
hardware, a software process claim describes the 
operations of a computer, as would be understood by 
anyone of skill in the art of computer engineering and 
programming. A computer cannot operate on “ideas,” 
let alone “abstract” ones. The first balancing factor 
tilts heavily towards the conclusion that a process 
claim necessarily deals with concrete concepts and 
acceptable “abstractions.” 
Second, in the context of both the historical and 
modern cases, the concern over preemption as a 
standalone consideration is misplaced – rather pre-
emption is a balancing factor. By definition a patent 
claim operates to “preempt” others from implement-
ing a particular invention, for how else is the 
“exclusive right” obtained? It is not preemption per se 

that is bad, but rather preemption that is un-
supported by an equally broad and enabling dis-
closure of invention that makes clear the metes and 
bounds of the invention, and thereby improperly 
forecloses future innovations by others. On the other 
hand, a broad scope of preemption is justified by a 
clear and definite claim and broadly enabling patent 
disclosure. Thus, the horse of preemption must 
always be shackled to the cart of disclosure. 
So long as a claim for a software process is 
described as operating on a computer, then a claim, 
even a broad one, is patent eligible. If someone 
invents a particular algorithm, and a process claim 
for that algorithm is limited to operation on a 
computer – either explicitly or implicitly – then the 
sheer breadth of the claim does not defeat patent 
eligibility. The breadth of the claim must be 
understood not in a vacuum, but rather entirely in 
the context of what one of skill in the art would 
understand  precisely because it is one of skill in the 
art who must be enabled by the patent disclosure.  
Once the difference between laws of nature, 
natural phenomenon, and abstract intellectual ideas 
is recognized, claims implicating the former two 
categories can be more precisely identified. Separate 
tests and considerations appropriate to these claims 
remain to be identified.  
Finally, only if the claim is so broad as to cover 
every possible implementation – and this is a 
question of fact that requires more than cursory 

analysis – then the claim likely would be un-
patentable under § 102 or § 103 – but it would still be 
patentable subject matter under § 101. This is be-
cause such a claim would likely recite the desired 
result and without significant limitation as to the 
way of achieving that result. If the result is too 
broadly stated, then it is likely a result that has been 
obtained by others, and hence not novel. 
----------------- ♦ ----------------- 
Applying a variety of balancing factors, rather 
than a single, complicated test, provides the flexi-
bility necessary to leave room for the unknown future 
of technology innovation, a future that begins with 
the first patent application filed tomorrow. 
Respectfully submitted, 
555 California Street 
Suite 1200 
San Francisco, CA 94104 
(415) 875-2300 

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