No. 08-964 
 
In The Supreme Court Of the United States 
______________ 
 
BERNARD L. BILSKI AND RAND A. WARSAW, 
 
 
 
 
 
PETITIONERS, 
v. 
 
JOHN J. DOLL, ACTING UNDER SECRETARY OF 
COMMERCE FOR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY AND ACTING 
DIRECTOR OF THE UNITED STATES PATENT AND 
TRADEMARK OFFICE, 
 
 
 
 
 
RESPONDENT. 
______________ 
On Writ of Certiorari to The United States Court of 
Appeals for the Federal Circuit 
______________ 
 
BRIEF OF AMICUS CURIAE  
AUSTIN INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY  
LAW ASSOCIATION  
IN SUPPORT OF NEITHER PARTY 
______________ 
 
 
 
Jennifer C. Kuhn, Esq. 
 
 
 
 
Counsel of Record 
 
5003 Timberline Drive 
    Austin, 
Texas 
78746 
    (512) 
731-1847 
 
 
 
 
 
Counsel for Amicus Curiae 
 
Austin Intellectual Property 
 Law 
Association 
_________________________________________________ 
 
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Questions Presented for Review 
 
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 patent 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. 
 
 
 
 
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ii 
TABLE OF CONTENTS 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Page 
 
Questions Presented for Review.........................i 
 
Table of Authorities ..........................................iv 
 
I.  
Introduction and Summary of  
 Argument................................................. 2 
 
II. 
The Federal Circuit’s Bilski Decision 
 
Is Contrary to the Canon that Statutory  
 
Terms Must Be Construed Consistently 
 Throughout 
a Statute.............................. 5 
 
 
 
A.  Statutory Interpretation Begins  
 
 
With the Language of Sections  
  
101 
and 
100(b).................................... 6 
 
 
 
B.  A Court Must Follow an  
 
 
Explicit Statutory Definition,  
 
 
Such as 35 U.S.C. § 100(b) ................ 7 
 
 
 
C.  The Fact That the Statutory  
 
 
Definition of the Term “Process”  
 
 
in 35 U.S.C. § 100(b)  Recites the  
 
 
Term “Process” Illustrates That  
 
 
Congress Intended to Include the  
 
 
Common Law Meaning of  “Process” 
 
 
Within a Broader Statutory  
  
Definition 
of “Process” ....................... 8 
 
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iii 
 
III.   The Federal Circuit’s Interpretation in  
 
Bilski Is Contrary to the Canon that  
 
Statutory Terms Should Not Be Interpreted  
 
So As to Render Another Portion of  
 the 
Same 
Statute Superfluous.............. 12 
 
IV.   Conclusion ............................................. 14 
 
 
 
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iv 
  
TABLE OF AUTHORITIES 
 Page(s) 
CASES 
Bankamerica Corp. v. United States
462 U.S. 122 (1983)....................................... 5 
Diamond v. Diehr
450 U.S. 175 (1981)....................................... 6 
Estate of Cowart v. Niklos Drilling Co.
505 U.S. 469 (1992)....................................... 5 
Gottschalk v. Benson
409 U.S. 63 (1972)....................................... 10 
In re Bilski
545 F.3d 943 (2008) ............................ passim 
Kungys v. United States
485 U.S. 759 (1988) (Scalia, J.) ................ 3, 9 
Mackey v. Lanier Collection Agency & Serv., 
Inc.
486 U.S. 825 (1988)..................................... 12 
NLRB v. Amax Coal Co.
453 U.S. 322 (1981)....................................... 3 
Parker v. Flook
437 U.S. 584 (1978)..................................... 10 
 
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Perrin v. United States
444 U.S. 37 (1979)......................................... 3 
State Street Bank & Trust Co. v. Signature 
Financial Group, Inc.
149 F.3d 1368 (Fed. Cir. 1998)................... 13 
Stenberg v. Carhart
530 U.S. 914 (2000)....................................... 7 
United States v. Ron Pair Enters.
489 U.S. 235 (1989)....................................... 8 
 
STATUTES 
35 U.S.C. § 100(b) (2008) ......................... passim 
35 U.S.C. § 101 ......................................... passim 
35 U.S.C. § 273 ....................................... 3, 12, 13 
 
OTHER AUTHORITIES 
Supreme Court Rule 37.1 ................................ 10 
 
 
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STATEMENT OF INTEREST 
OF THE AMICUS CURIAE1 
 
 
Amicus curiae Austin Intellectual Property 
Law Association (“Austin IPLA”) is a bar association 
located in Austin, Texas with approximately 300 
members engaged in private and corporate practice 
across a wide range of industries and technologies.  
(See www.austin-ipla.org.)  Austin IPLA members 
represent both the owners of and users of 
intellectual property. 
 
 
Austin IPLA takes no position on the ultimate 
outcome of this matter, and specifically takes no 
position on whether petitioner’s particular process 
claims should be granted patent protection.  Austin 
IPLA’s sole interest is that the integrity of the 
Patent Act be maintained through consistent 
statutory interpretation.  
 
                                                        
1  This  amicus curiae brief is presented by the Austin IPLA 
under Supreme Court Rule 37(a).  Petitioner and Respondent 
have  consented  to  the  filing  of  this  brief.    In  accordance  with 
Supreme Court Rule 37.6, Austin IPLA states that this brief 
was authored by Jennifer C. Kuhn, Esq., Amicus Committee 
Chair for Austin IPLA.  No counsel for a party authored this 
brief in whole or in part, and no counsel or party made a 
monetary contribution intended to fund the preparation or 
submission of this brief.  No person other than amicus curiae, 
its members, or its counsel made a monetary contribution to its 
preparation or submission.   
 
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I.  Introduction and Summary of Argument 
 
Patent law is in no way exempt from the 
general rules of statutory interpretation that apply 
to all other statutes.  Accordingly, when faced with 
an issue of statutory construction in a patent case, 
as here, this Court should look not only to its patent 
law precedent, but also its non-patent statutory 
interpretation precedent.     
 
Austin IPLA expects that the parties and 
other  amici  may focus their arguments on patent 
related jurisprudence.  So as to avoid arguments 
already presented by others, Austin IPLA focuses 
instead on the proper statutory interpretation of 35 
U.S.C. §101 under the Supreme Court’s non-patent 
general statutory interpretation precedent.   
 
This Court’s non-patent precedent 
overwhelmingly shows that the statutory 
interpretation adopted by the Federal Circuit in In 
re Bilski, 545 F.3d 943 (2008) cannot be affirmed by 
this Court.   
 
First, the Federal Circuit’s interpretation of 
“process” does not comport with the general 
statutory interpretation canon that statutory terms 
must be interpreted consistently throughout a 
statute.  The Federal Circuit’s version of “process” in 
35 U.S.C. § 101 is far narrower than the broad 
definition of “process” in 35 U.S.C. § 100(b) (2008).  
The Federal Circuit’s decision in Bilski notes that 
the definition in 35 U.S.C. § 100(b) is “unhelpful” 
because the term “process” is repeated in the 
 
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definition.  545 F.3d at 951, n.3.  The inclusion of the 
term “process” in the statutory definition of “process” 
is not circular or unhelpful.  Instead, it suggests that 
Congress incorporated the settled common law 
meaning of “process” into the statutory definition of 
“process.”2  Applying the broader statutory definition 
of “process,” the “machine-or-transformation” test is 
a sufficient, but not necessary test to determine the 
patentability of a process patent under 35 U.S.C. § 
101.  The proper statutory interpretation of 35 
U.S.C. § 101 will include the “machine-or-
transformation” test.   
 
Second, the Federal Circuit’s decision in Bilski 
applies a statutory interpretation that renders 
superfluous another portion of the statute, an 
interpretation that is highly disfavored according to 
principles of general statutory interpretation.  The 
Federal Circuit’s statutory interpretation in Bilski 
renders superfluous portions of 35 U.S.C. § 273, a 
statute that provides a defense to the infringement 
of business method patents. 
 
 
As a result, the Federal Circuit’s decision 
appears to be in conflict with two separate, well-
established canons found in Supreme Court non-
                                                        
See Kungys v. United States, 485 U.S. 759, 770 (1988) (Scalia, 
J.) (“Where Congress uses terms that have accumulated settled 
meaning under either equity or the common law, a court must 
infer, unless the statute otherwise dictates, that Congress 
means to incorporate the established meaning of these terms.”  
NLRB v. Amax Coal Co., 453 U.S. 322, 329 (1981). See also 
Perrin v. United States, 444 U.S. 37, 42-43 (1979)). 
 
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patent statutory interpretation case law.  Austin 
IPLA addresses each of these in greater detail below.  
 
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II. The Federal Circuit’s Bilski  Decision Is 
Contrary to the Canon that Statutory 
Terms Must Be Construed Consistently 
Throughout a Statute 
It is a “basic canon of statutory construction 
that identical terms within an Act bear the same 
meaning.”  Estate of  Cowart v. Niklos Drilling Co.
505 U.S. 469, 479 (1992)(citing Sullivan v. Stroop, 
496 U.S. 478, 484 (1990) and Sorenson v. Secretary 
of Treas., 475 U.S. 851, 860 (1986)).  In rejecting 
arguments based on two different interpretations of 
the phrase “other than” this Court stated that 
attempting to give a single term two different 
interpretations in single statute “strains the 
meaning of ordinary words.”  Bankamerica Corp. v. 
United States, 462 U.S. 122, 129 (1983).  
By giving the term “process” in 35 U.S.C. § 
101 an interpretation distinctly narrower than the 
definition of “process” in 35 U.S.C. § 100(b), the 
Federal Circuit’s decision in Bilski  “strains the 
meaning of ordinary words,” contrary to this Court’s 
precedent.  462 U.S. at 129.  The Federal Circuit’s 
stated reason for not applying the definition of 
“process” in 35 U.S.C. § 100(b) is that it contains the 
very term it is defining, such that the Federal 
Circuit deemed the statutory definition “unhelpful.”  
545 F.3d at 951, n.3.    
This Court’s statutory construction precedent, 
however, suggests a deeper analysis.  First, 
statutory interpretation begins with the language of 
sections 101 and 100(b).  Second, an express 
 
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statutory definition such as that found in section 
100(b) should control.  Third, the fact that the 
express statutory definition of “process” contains the 
term “process” is not necessarily circular or 
“unhelpful” as the Federal Circuit noted in Bilski
but instead, is consistent with Congress’s use of term 
“process” in its common law sense to arrive at a 
broader statutory definition of the term “process.”   
Austin IPLA treats these points seriatim. 
 
A.  Statutory Interpretation Begins With the 
Language of Sections 101 and 100(b) 
  
The starting point for any question of 
statutory interpretation is the language of the 
statute.  See  Diamond v. Diehr, 450 U.S. 175, 182 
(1981).  First, the term “process” is used in 35 U.S.C. 
101 as follows:  
Whoever invents or discovers any new 
and useful process, machine, 
manufacture, or composition of 
matter, or any new and useful 
improvement thereof, may obtain a 
patent therefor, subject to the 
conditions and requirements of this 
title. 
35 U.S.C. § 101. 
 
Second, the term “process” is defined in 35 
U.S.C. § 100(b) as follows: 
 
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The term ‘process’ means process, art 
or method, and includes a new use of a 
known process, machine, 
manufacture, composition of matter or 
material. 
35 U.S.C. § 100(b). 
 
Any statutory interpretation of the term 
“process” in 35 U.S.C. § 101 must be consistent with 
the language of 35 U.S.C. § 100(b), which defines the 
term “process” for the entire Patent Act.  See 
Stenberg v. Carhart, 530 U.S. 914, 942 (2000).   
B.  A Court Must Follow an Explicit 
Statutory Definition, Such as 35 U.S.C. § 
100(b) 
The Federal Circuit’s failure to follow the 
statutory definition of “process” in section 100(b) 
when interpreting “process” in section 101 is 
inconsistent with this Court’s non-patent precedent.  
In addition to requiring statutory terms to be 
interpreted consistently throughout a statute, this 
Court accords a special status to statutory 
definitions:  “When a statute includes an explicit 
definition, we must follow that definition, even if it 
varies from that term’s ordinary meaning.”  Stenberg 
v. Carhart, 530 U.S. 914, 942 (2000).   The question 
of the proper statutory interpretation of “process” in 
section 101 then depends solely on the proper 
interpretation of the statutory definition of “process” 
in section 100(b). See 35 U.S.C. §§ 100(b) & 101; cf. 
Stenberg, 530 U.S. at 942. 
 
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C.  The Fact That the Statutory Definition of 
the Term “Process” in 35 U.S.C. § 100(b) 
Recites the Term “Process” Illustrates 
That Congress Intended to Include the 
Common Law Meaning of “Process” 
Within a Broader Statutory Definition of 
“Process” 
The Federal Circuit in Bilski dismissed 
section 100(b) as “unhelpful given that the definition 
itself uses the term ‘process.’”  Bilski, 545 F.3d at 
951, n.3.  The use of the term “process” within the 
statutory definition of “process” does not necessarily 
render the statutory definition circular or invalid.  
Analysis of the manner in which “process” is used in 
section 100(b) suggests that Congress intended to 
incorporate the common law meaning of “process” 
into a broader statutory definition.  
This Court has held that grammar, syntax 
and punctuation play a role in statutory 
interpretation.  See  United States v. Ron Pair 
Enters., 489 U.S. 235, 242 (1989) (“The language and 
punctuation Congress used cannot be read any other 
way.”)  In this case, analysis of the way the words in 
section 100(b) are used and punctuated demonstrate 
that the defined term “process” is distinct from the 
common law meaning of “process” used in the 
statutory definition: 
The term ‘process’ means process, art 
or method, and includes a new use of a 
known process, machine, 
manufacture, composition of matter or 
material. 
 
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35 U.S.C. § 100(b) (emphases added to show three 
uses of the term “process”). 
 
The first use of “process” shows the term 
“process” in single quotation marks.  Those quotation 
marks serve to show it is the term being defined, and 
set it apart from the rest of the definition.  The 
second and third uses of “process” in the definition 
show “process” with no quotation marks.  Without 
the quotation marks, the use of “process” shows that 
it is being used as an undefined term in the statute.   
Thus, the definition of “process” in 35 U.S.C. § 100(b) 
includes the normal meaning that the rules of 
statutory interpretation would assign to the 
undefined term “process” because the undefined 
term “process” is part of the definition.  Properly 
interpreting both uses of “process” is necessary to 
determine the scope of 35 U.S.C. § 101(b). 
According to this Court’s precedent, terms 
used in statutes receive their ordinary meanings, or 
their settled, common law meanings, if the term has 
such an “established meaning.”  See Kungys 485 U.S. 
at 770.  (Where Congress uses terms that have 
accumulated settled meaning under either equity or 
the common law, a court must infer, unless the 
statute otherwise dictates, that Congress means to 
incorporate the established meaning of these 
terms”.)  When section 100(b) was added to the 
Patent Act in 1952, the term “process” had a settled 
meaning in the common law that was, essentially, 
 
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10 
the “machine-or-transformation” test adopted by the 
Federal Circuit in Bilski.3   
The creation of a separate definition of 
“process” in 35 U.S.C. § 100(b) in the 1952 Patent 
Act clearly indicates Congress’s intent that subject 
matter of processes in the Patent Act extend beyond 
what the common law had previously recognized as 
patentable, but should include all previously 
patentable subject matter.  Congress’s use of 
“process” within the definition, without quotation 
marks, shows that Congress intended the common 
law definition of “process” to become part of the 
statutory definition of “process.”4   
                                                        
3 The historical development of the term “process” is discussed 
at length in the Federal Circuit’s opinion and dissenting 
opinions.  See 545 F.3d 943 et seq.  Mindful of Supreme Court 
Rule 37.1, amicus curiae Austin IPLA will not repeat that 
material here.  
4 On two occasions this Court has acknowledged that the 
“machine-or-transformation” test does not encompass the full 
scope of patentable subject matter for processes.  See 
Gottschalk v. Benson, 409 U.S. 63, 71 (1972) (“It is argued that 
a process patent must either be tied to a particular machine or 
apparatus or must operate to change articles or materials to a 
‘different state or thing.’  We do not hold that no process patent 
could ever qualify if it did not meet the requirements of our 
prior precedents.”) & Parker v. Flook, 437 U.S. 584, 588 n.9 
(1978) (citing Benson).  In both Benson and Flook, this Court 
rejected the process claims at issue as unpatentable, but took 
care to note that precedent did not describe the entire set of 
patentable process subject matter.  These statements support 
the interpretation of section 100(b) as incorporating, but not 
limited to, the common law meaning of “process.”  Thus, the 
“machine or transformation test” test is a sufficient, but not 
necessary, test for determining the patentability of a process. 
 
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11 
Hence 35 U.S.C. § 100(b) expressly defines 
“process,” and the statute’s use of the term “process” 
in the definition of the term “process” is not 
necessarily circular.  Accordingly, the Federal 
Circuit’s “machine-or-transformation” test in Bilski 
does not comport with the general statutory 
interpretation canon that statutory terms must be 
interpreted consistently throughout a statute.   
 
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12 
 
III.  The Federal Circuit’s Interpretation in 
Bilski  Is Contrary to the Canon that 
Statutory Terms Should Not Be 
Interpreted So As to Render Another 
Portion of the Same Statute 
Superfluous 
The Federal Circuit’s “machine-or-
transformation” test also violates another statutory 
interpretation rule found in the Supreme Court’s 
non-patent precedent:  a statutory interpretation 
should not render another section of the same 
statute superfluous.  Mackey v. Lanier Collection 
Agency & Serv., Inc., 486 U.S. 825, 837 (1988).  In 
Mackey, this Court rejected an interpretation that 
would have rendered a section of the ERISA statute 
superfluous. 
In this case, the Federal Circuit’s 
interpretation of 35 U.S.C. § 101 as being limited to 
the “machine-or-transformation” test renders 
portions of 35 U.S.C. § 273 completely superfluous.  
Section 273(a)(3) reads as follows:    
 
§ 273 Defense to infringement based 
on earlier inventor 
(a) 
Definitions. For the purposes of 
this section… 
(3) The term “method” means a 
method of doing or conducting 
business. 
 
(b) Defense to Infringement.— 
 
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(1) In general.—It shall be a 
defense to an action for infringement 
under section 271 of this title with 
respect to any subject matter that 
would otherwise infringe one or more 
claims for a method… 
35 U.S.C. § 273. 
 
Section 273 was added to the Patent Act in 
1999 specifically to create a defense against the 
business method patents allowed after the Federal 
Circuit’s decision in State Street Bank & Trust Co. v. 
Signature Financial Group, Inc., 149 F.3d 1368 (Fed. 
Cir. 1998).  
 
The quoted portions of section 273 become 
superfluous under the Federal Circuit’s “machine-or-
transformation” test because no State Street-type 
business method patent claim could pass such a test, 
and therefore no defense against infringement of 
such a business method would be necessary.  If 
patentable processes are limited by the “machine-or-
transformation” test, then the statutory subject 
matter would be too narrow to encompass such a 
business method, and there would be no need for a 
defense for prior users of such a business method.   
 
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IV.   Conclusion 
For the foregoing reasons, amicus curiae 
Austin IPLA suggests that the Federal Circuit’s 
decision in Bilski should be vacated in view of this 
Court’s general statutory interpretation precedent, 
and remanded for further proceedings. 
 
 
 
 
 
Respectfully submitted, 
 
 
Jennifer C. Kuhn, Esq. 
Counsel of Record 
5003 Timberline Drive 
Austin, Texas 78746 
(512) 731-1847 
 
Counsel  for Amicus Curiae  
Austin Intellectual Property 
Law Association 
 
August 6, 2009 
 
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