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, PATENT AND TRADEMARK OFFICE, 
 
Respondent. 
_________ 
On Writ of Certiorari 
to the United States Court of Appeals 
for the Federal Circuit 
_________ 
BRIEF AMICUS CURIAE OF INTERNATIONAL 
BUSINESS MACHINES CORPORATION 
IN SUPPORT OF NEITHER PARTY 
_________ 
MARC A. EHRLICH 
CATHERINE E. STETSON * 
MANNY W. SCHECTER 
JESSICA L. ELLSWORTH  
MARIAN UNDERWEISER 
HOGAN & HARTSON LLP 
IBM CORPORATION  
555 Thirteenth St., N.W. 
One North Castle Dr. 
Washington, D.C. 20004 
Armonk, NY 10504 
(202) 637-5491 
(914) 765-4260 
 * Counsel of Record 
Counsel for Amicus Curiae 
 
 
[Additional counsel on inside cover.] 
  

 
Additional Counsel:  
KENNETH R. CORSELLO 
IBM CORPORATION 
1101 Kitchawan Rd. 
Yorktown Heights, NY 10598 
(914) 945-2631 
 RANDALL BLUESTONE 
VAN N. NGUY 
IBM CORPORATION 
650 Harry Rd.  
San Jose, CA 95120 
(408) 927-3386 
 
  

TABLE OF CONTENTS 
Page 
TABLE OF AUTHORITIES........................................ii 
STATEMENT OF INTEREST  
OF AMICUS CURIAE ...........................................1 
INTRODUCTION........................................................3 
SUMMARY OF ARGUMENT.....................................5 
ARGUMENT ...............................................................8 
I.  THE PROPER INQUIRY FOR 
PATENTABLE SUBJECT MATTER 
FOCUSES ON WHETHER THE    
CLAIMED PROCESS MAKES A 
TECHNOLOGICAL CONTRIBUTION ................8 
II. THE MACHINE-OR-TRANSFORMATION 
TEST IS A USEFUL, BUT NOT 
UNIVERSALLY DISPOSITIVE, AID TO 
DETERMINING PATENTABILITY ...................16 
III. SOFTWARE INVENTIONS THAT MAKE 
TECHNOLOGICAL CONTRIBUTIONS  
ARE PATENTABLE ............................................18 
A.  Courts Have Recognized That Software Is 
Patentable Subject Matter .............................23 
B.  Software Patent Protection Provides 
Significant Economic, Technological, and 
Societal Benefits .............................................25 
IV. NON-TECHNOLOGICAL METHODS 
SHOULD NOT BE PATENTABLE ..................30 
CONCLUSION ..........................................................36 
(i)  
  

ii 
TABLE OF AUTHORITIES 
Page 
CASES
Bonito Boats, Inc. v. Thunder Craft Boats, 
Inc., 489 U.S. 141 (1989)........................................9 
Cochrane v. Deener, 94 U.S. 780 (1877)..............11, 35 
Diamond v. Chakrabarty
447 U.S. 303 (1980)....................................9, 15, 35 
Diamond v. Diehr
450 U.S. 175 (1981)...................................... passim 
eBay Inc. v. MercExchange, LLC
547 U.S. 388 (2006).....................................2,30, 33 
Ex Parte Altman, No. 2008-2386,  
2009 WL 1709111 (BPAI May 29, 2009) .............22 
Ex Parte Godwin, No. 2008-0130,  
2008 WL 4898213 (BPAI Nov. 13, 2008).............22 
Ex parte Mazzara, No. 2008-4741,  
2009 WL 291178 (BPAI Feb. 5, 2009) .................19 
Ex Parte Petculescu, No. 2008-2859,  
2009 WL 1718896 (BPAI June 4, 2009) .........18-19 
Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kalo Inoculant Co.
333 U.S. 127 (1948)................................................5 
General Elec. Co. v. Jewel Incandescent 
Lamp Co., 326 U.S. 242 (1945)............................17 
  

iii 
TABLE OF AUTHORITIES—Continued 
Page 
Gottschalk v. Benson, 409 U.S. 63 (1972)..... 13, 15, 35 
Graham v. John Deere Co.
383 U.S. 1 (1966)..............................................8, 10 
Great Atlantic & Pac. Tea Co. v. 
Supermarket Equip. Corp.
340 U.S. 147 (1950) .....................................8, 9, 34 
Hotel Sec. Checking Co. v. Lorraine Co.
160 F. 467 (2d Cir. 1908) .....................................12 
In re Abele, 684 F.2d 902 (CCPA 1982) ....................18 
In re Alappat, 33 F.3d 1526 (Fed. Cir. 1994)............25 
In re Foster, 438 F.2d 1011 (CCPA 1971).................10 
In re Musgrave, 431 F.2d 882 (CCPA 1970) .............10 
Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, Inc. v. Marzall
180 F.2d 26 (D.C. Cir. 1950) ................................12 
Kewanee Oil Co. v. Bicron Corp.
416 U.S. 470 (1974)..............................................28 
KSR Int’l Co. v. Teleflex Inc.
550 U.S. 398 (2007)...................................... passim 
Lab. Corp. of Am. Holdings v. Metabolite 
Labs., Inc., 548 U.S. 124 (2006).....................15, 30 
Le Roy v. Tatham,                                        
55 U.S. (14 How.) 156 (1853) ...............................12 
   
  

iv 
TABLE OF AUTHORITIES—Continued 
Page 
Loew’s Drive-in Theatres, Inc. v. Park-In 
Theatres, Inc., 174 F.2d 547 (1st Cir. 1949)........12 
Lotus Development Corp. v. Borland 
International, Inc., 49 F.3d 
807 (1st Cir. 1995), aff’d per curiam by 
an equally divided Court, 516 U.S. 233 
(1996)..............................................................23, 24 
Mackay Radio & Tel. Co. v. Radio Corp. of 
Am., 306 U.S. 86 (1939) .......................................14 
Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc.
517 U.S. 370 (1996)................................................9 
Motion Picture Patents Co. v. Universal 
Film Mfg. Co., 243 U.S. 502 (1917) .......................4 
O’Reilly v. Morse,                                          
56 U.S. (15 How.) 62 (1854) ...........................12, 32 
Parker v. Flook, 437 U.S. 584 (1978) ............ 13, 14, 35 
Paulik v. Rizkalla,  
760 F.2d 1270 (Fed. Cir. 1985) ............................10 
Pfaff v. Wells Elect., Inc.
525 U.S. 55 (1998)..................................................8 
Quanta Computer, Inc. v. LG Electronics
Inc., 128 S. Ct. 2109 (2008)............................2, 4, 7 
Rubber-Tip Pencil Co. v. Howard,               
87 U.S. (20 Wall.) 498 (1874)...............................13 
   
  


TABLE OF AUTHORITIES—Continued 
Page 
Slimfold Mfg. Co. v. Kinkead Indus., Inc.
932 F.2d 1453 (Fed. Cir. 1991) ............................33 
Tilghman v. Proctor, 102 U.S. 707 (1881) ................11 
United States v. Dubilier Condenser Corp.
289 U.S. 178 (1933)..............................................36 
CONSTITUTION: 
U.S. Const., art. I, § 8, cl. 8 .....................................4, 8 
STATUTES: 
17 U.S.C. 102(b).........................................................24 
35 U.S.C. § 101 .................................................. passim 
LEGISLATIVE MATERIALS: 
S. Rep. No. 82-1979 (1952)........................................11 
Testimony of Nicholas M. Donofrio, 
Executive Vice President, Innovation 
and Technology, IBM Corp. Before the H. 
R. Comm. on Science (July 21, 2005) .............26-27 
RULE: 
Sup. Ct. R. 37.6............................................................1 
   
  

vi 
TABLE OF AUTHORITIES—Continued 
Page 
OTHER AUTHORITIES: 
John R. Allison, et al.Frontiers of 
Intellectual Property:  Software Patents, 
Incumbents, and Entry, 85 Tex. L. Rev. 
1579 (2007) ...........................................................27 
Blackberry Operating System Downloads
available at http://www.blackberryfaq. 
com/index.php/ .......................................................7 
Denise Brehm, MIT, Dep’t of Civil & Envtl. 
Eng’g, CEE Mapping Technology Could 
Make Oil Extraction More Efficient 
(Jan. 16, 2009), available at http://cee. 
mit.edu/news/releases/2009/oilrecovery..............21 
M. Broy, Challenges in Automotive Software 
Engineering, Int’l Conference on 
Software Eng’g, Ass’n for Computing 
Mach. (2006)...........................................................7 
Computer Science & Telecomm. Bd., Nat’l 
Research Council, Intellectual Property 
Issues in Software (1991) .....................................24 
Cong. Office of Tech. Assessment, Finding a 
Balance: Computer Software, Intellectual 
Property and the Challenge of 
Technological Change (1992)...............................27  
   
  

vii 
TABLE OF AUTHORITIES—Continued 
Page 
Corp. for Am. Banking, Anti-Money 
Laundering (AML) Transaction 
Monitoring Software, available at 
http://www.aba.com/CAB/cab-fortent.htm..........21 
Corporate R&D Scoreboard, Tech. Rev. 
(Sept. 2005) ..........................................................28  
Robert I. Coulter, The Field of the 
Statutory Useful Arts, Part II,  
34 J. Patent Office Soc’y 487 (1952) ....................10 
Dep’t of Energy, Diagnostics, Imaging, and 
Fundamental R&D: Advanced 
Diagnostics & Imaging Research, Oil & 
Natural Gas Supply & Delivery
available at http://fossil.energy.gov/ 
programs/oilgas/fundamental/index.htm............21 
Dep’t of Homeland Security, The National 
Strategy to Secure Cyberspace (Feb. 
2003), available at http://www.dhs.gov/ 
xlibrary/assets/National_Cyberspace_ 
Strategy.pdf .............................................................7 
Dep’t of Labor, Occupational Outlook 
Handbook (2008) ..................................................26 
Dep’t of Transportation, U.S. Department of 
Transportation Announces computer 
software to Improve Transportation 
Decisions (Oct. 2, 2000), available at 
http://www.dot.gov/affairs/fhwa6300.htm.............7 
   
  

viii 
TABLE OF AUTHORITIES—Continued 
Page 
Heinz Erzberger, Transforming the NAS: 
The Next Gereration Air Traffic Control 
System, NASA (2004), available at 
http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntr
s.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/200
50110294_2005093599.pdf. ...................................7 
Claude M. Fuess, Calvin Coolidge, The Man 
from Vermont (1940) ............................................31 
W. David Gardner, Chicago Taps IBM, 
Firetide to Install “Operation Virtual 
Shield,” Information Week (Sept. 27, 
2007), available at http://www. 
ationweek.com/news/mobility/security/sh
owArticle.jhtml?articleID=202102357 ................20 
Isabelle M. Germano, Advanced Techniques 
in Image-Guided Brain and Spine 
Surgery (2002)........................................................7 
Richard S. Gruner, Better Living Through 
Software: Promoting Information 
Processing Advances Through Patent 
Incentives, 74 St. John’s L. Rev. 977 
(2000)....................................................................27 
IBM and Semagix Join Forces to Combat 
Money Laundering (Feb. 4, 2004), 
available at http://domino.watson.ibm. 
com/comm/pr.nsf/pages/news.20040204_
money.html...........................................................21 
   
  

ix 
TABLE OF AUTHORITIES—Continued 
Page 
Josh Lerner & Feng Zhu, What is the 
Impact of Sofware Patent Shifts?:  
Evidence from Lotus v. Borland, Harvard 
Univ. & Nat’l Bur. of Econ. Research, 25 
Int’l J.of Ind. Org. 511 (2007) ..............................24 
Karl B. Lutz, Patents and Science: A 
Clarification of the Patent Clause of the 
U.S. Constitution, 18 Geo. Wash L. Rev. 
50 (1949) ...............................................................10 
Robson Macedo & David Bluemke, New 
MRI Software: Nifty Spins, Imaging 
Economics (Fed. 2006) .........................................16 
Ronald J. Mann, Do Patents Facilitate 
Financing in the Software Industry?,  
83 Tex. L. Rev. 961 (2005) .............................23, 27 
Jim McKay, Police Tout License Plate 
Recognition Systems as the Next Big 
Thing Government Technology (May 12, 
2008), available at 
http://www.govtech.com/gt/273037......................20 
 Malla Pollack, The Multiple 
Unconstitutionality of Business Methods 
Patents:  Common Sense, Congressional 
Consideration, and Constitutional 
History, 28 Rutgers Computer & Tech. 
L.J. 76 (2002)........................................................32 
   
  


TABLE OF AUTHORITIES—Continued 
Page 
Leo J. Raskind, The State Street Bank 
Decision: The Bad Business of Unlimited 
Patent Protection for Methods of Doing 
Business, 10 Fordham Intel. Prop., 
Media & Ent. L. J. 61 (1999) .........................30, 31 
Report of the President’s Commission on the 
Patent System, To Promote the Progress 
of * * * Useful Arts in an Age of 
Exploding Technology (1966)...............................28 
Report to the President, Information 
Technology Research: “Investing in Our 
Future,” President’s Info. Tech. Advisory 
Comm. (PITAC), Nat’l Coordination 
Office for Computing, Info. & Commc’ns 
(1999)....................................................................19 
Pamela Samuelson, et al., A Manifesto 
Concerning the Legal Protections of 
Computer Programs,  
94 Colum. L. Rev. 2308 (1994).............................27 
Justin Scheck & Paul Glader, R&D 
Spending Holds Steady in Slump, Wall 
St. J., A-1 (Apr. 6, 2009) ......................................28 
Andrew A. Schwartz, The Patent Office 
Meets the Poison Pill: Why Legal 
Methods Cannot be Patented, 
 20 Harv. J. L. & Tech. 333 (2007) ......................15 
   
  

xi 
TABLE OF AUTHORITIES—Continued 
Page 
Software & Info. Indus. Ass’n, Software and 
Information Driving the Global 
Knowledge Economy (2008) ...........................25, 26 
John R. Thomas, The Patenting of the 
Liberal Professions, 40 B.C. L. Rev. 1139 
(1999)....................................................................10 
U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission, Air 
Traffic Controlavailable at http://www. 
centennialofflight.gov/essay?Government
-Role/Air-traffic-control/POL15.htm ...................21 
Stephanie L. Valera, Damned if You Do, 
Doomed if You Don’t: Patenting Legal 
Methods and Its Affect on Lawyers’ 
Professional Responsibilities,  
60 Fla. L. Rev. 1145 (2008)..................................33 
 
   
  

 
IN THE 
Supreme Court of the United States 
_________ 
No. 08-964 
_________ 
BERNARD L. BILSKI AND RAND A. WARSAW, 
 
Petitioners
v. 
 
JOHN J. 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 AMICUS CURIAE OF INTERNATIONAL 
BUSINESS MACHINES CORPORATION 
IN SUPPORT OF NEITHER PARTY 
_________ 
STATEMENT OF INTEREST 
OF AMICUS CURIAE1 
                                                      
1   Pursuant to Sup. Ct. R. 37.6, amicus notes that 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. 
 
Petitioners and Respondents have consented to the filing of this 
  

 
 
 
 
 
 

International Business Machines Corporation 
(IBM) is a globally recognized leader in the field of 
information technology research, development, 
design, manufacturing, and related services.  During 
IBM’s nearly 100-year history, its employees have 
included five Nobel laureates, five National Medal of 
Science recipients, and seven winners of the National 
Medal of Technology.  The United States Patent and 
Trademark Office (PTO) has granted IBM tens of 
thousands of United States patents, including more 
patents than any other corporate assignee for the 
past sixteen years.    IBM has filed amicus briefs in 
other cases before the Court involving interpretation 
of the patent laws.  Seee.g.Quanta Computer, Inc. 
v. LG Electronics, Inc., 128 S. Ct. 2109 (2008); KSR 
Int’l Co. v. Teleflex Inc., 550 U.S. 398 (2007); eBay 
Inc. v. MercExchange, LLC, 547 U.S. 388 (2006). 
In light of its sizeable patent portfolio and diverse 
business interests, IBM can provide a balanced view 
of the patentability standard under 35 U.S.C. 
§ 101—particularly as it relates to the patenting of 
software and business method related inventions.  As 
a leading recipient, licensee, and licensor of patents, 
IBM has a compelling interest in the development of 
clear and consistent rules governing subject matter 
patentability and is committed to maintaining the 
integrity of the United States patent laws—and the 
quality of patents themselves.    IBM has frequently 
been involved in patent litigation, both as a patentee 
seeking to enforce its patent rights and as an accused 
infringer defending itself against others’ claims.  As 
a major force in the information technology industry, 
                                                      
brief through blanket consent letters filed with the Clerk’s 
Office.  
  

 
 
 
 
 
 

IBM has firsthand knowledge of the critical role the 
patent laws have played over the last few decades in 
software and information technology research and 
development.   
This case presents the question whether a 
nontechnological business method is patentable 
subject matter.  But the Federal Circuit’s opinion has 
needlessly created confusion regarding the 
patentability of software—the computer-readable 
code embodying functionality in virtually every 
modern information technology system or device.   
Software is the means by which we use our 
computers to do word processing, send email and 
surf the Web; it enables our cellphones to connect to 
wireless networks; it allows air traffic controllers to 
safely schedule the arrival and departure of flights; 
and it permits physicians to diagnose and treat 
illnesses.  Software is, in short, a fundamental, and 
increasingly indispensable, technological innovation. 
In the months since the Federal Circuit issued its 
opinion, and to IBM’s great concern, a number of 
administrative and judicial decisions have rigidly 
applied the “machine or transformation” test to 
question—in some cases explicitly—the patentability 
of software per se.  Software technology is vital in 
addressing society’s most pressing challenges.  IBM 
is committed to ensuring that such technology is and 
remains patentable.   
INTRODUCTION 
Two Terms ago, in KSR International Co. v. 
Teleflex Inc., 550 U.S. 398 (2007), this Court rejected 
the Federal Circuit’s “rigid” test for obviousness 
under Section 103 of the Patent Act in favor of a 
  

 
 
 
 
 
 

“flexible” and “functional” approach that returned 
the analysis to the underlying principles of the 
Court’s prior decisions on obviousness.  Id. at 415, 
417.  As the Court explained, the Federal Circuit 
erred in transforming “[h]elpful insights” and 
“general principle[s]” from this Court’s prior case law 
into a “rigid and mandatory formula[ ]” and a 
“formalistic conception” for determining obviousness.  
Id. at 419.   
This case presents a similar situation, and the 
Court’s guidance again is needed—this time to 
return the Section 101 patentability inquiry to a 
flexible, functional approach that values substance 
over form in assessing patentability.  The Court has 
long and often recognized that “ ‘the primary purpose 
of our patent laws is not the creation of private 
fortunes for the owners of patents but is “to promote 
the progress of science and the useful arts,” ’ ” 
Quanta Computer, 128 S. Ct. at 2116 (quoting 
Motion Picture Patents Co. v. Universal Film Mfg. 
Co., 243 U.S. 502, 518 (1917) (quoting U.S. Const., 
art. I, § 8, cl. 8)).2  Determining what kinds of 
inventions the patent laws protect is critical to 
properly promote innovation and balance the rights 
of inventors and the public. The Federal Circuit’s 
splintered decision in this case reflects that court’s 
considerable struggle to settle on a “test” to 
distinguish patentable subject matter from what this 
Court and the patent community have long agreed 
are unpatentable fundamental principles, namely:  
                                                      
2   Article I, § 8, cl. 8 of the U.S. Constitution grants Congress 
the power “[t]o promote the Progress of Science and the useful 
Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors 
the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and 
Discoveries.”  U.S. Const., art. I, § 8, cl. 8.  
  

 
 
 
 
 
 

laws of nature, natural phenomena, mental 
processes, and abstract ideas.  But the Federal 
Circuit’s narrow view that a single formalistic test 
determines whether any process constitutes 
patentable subject matter—a test asking whether a 
claimed process is tied to a particular machine or 
transforms a particular article into a different state 
or thing, Pet. App. 12a—is just the sort of rigid  
approach this Court rejected in KSR.   
The proper analysis—as in KSR—is one that 
examines the substance of the invention in view of 
the purpose of the patent laws.  In this case, the 
substantive approach is to determine if the claimed 
process provides a technological contribution and 
thus advances the “useful arts,” without preempting 
the use of laws of nature, natural phenomena, 
mental processes, or abstract ideas.  Such an 
approach will protect the application of fundamental 
principles in inventions that serve the constitutional 
purpose of promoting the useful arts, while avoiding 
removal of these principles from the “storehouse of 
knowledge of all men.”  Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kalo 
Inoculant Co., 333 U.S. 127, 130 (1948). 
SUMMARY OF ARGUMENT 
Section 101 is the gatekeeper of the patent system. 
It establishes the threshold requirement that claims 
be drawn to patentable subject matter, which it 
states are “any new and useful process, machine, 
manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new 
and useful improvement thereof.”  35 U.S.C. § 101. 
The constitutional purpose of the patent system and 
this Court’s precedents establish two key limitations 
on patentability:  Inventions which do not involve 
technological contributions are outside the scope of 
  

 
 
 
 
 
 

patentable subject matter, as are laws of nature, 
natural phenomena, mental processes, and abstract 
intellectual ideas.  Theoretical or abstract discoveries 
thus are excluded from patent protection.   
The machine-or-transformation test is a useful 
analytical tool to determine whether a claimed 
process impermissibly preempts a fundamental 
principle and is thus unpatentable.  But it would be 
a mistake for courts to rely only on the machine-or-
transformation test when assessing an invention’s 
patentability, because the test diverts the inquiry 
from the central question whether the substance of 
the invention provides a technological contribution 
and instead focuses on the form of the claim.  If 
applied as the exclusive test for determining the 
patentability of all processes, the machine-or-
transformation test will result (and is already 
resulting) in both false positives and false 
negatives—and will be readily circumvented by 
clever patent drafters.  Consistent with the purpose 
of the patent system, the initial and potentially 
dispositive inquiry must always  be whether the 
claimed process makes a technological contribution 
to the useful arts.  
This case presents the Court an opportunity to 
clarify the requirements for subject matter 
patentability.  Petitioner Bilski’s claims were 
directed to a nontechnological business method; but 
the Federal Circuit’s machine-or-transformation test 
has put in play the issue of subject matter 
patentability of software.  In view of the critical 
importance of software innovation, this Court should 
confirm that software is a technological field and 
that software inventions are patentable.  
  

 
 
 
 
 
 

Information technology systems powered by 
software are pervasive.  From the systems that 
protect our national security,3 control modern 
transportation,4 and help doctors perform precision 
surgery,5 to the systems that run our cars,6 
cellphones,7 and of course our personal computers, 
our everyday lives are in countless ways enabled and 
enhanced by information technology systems.  And it 
is the software in these systems that increasingly 
contains their functionality.   
This case thus requires the Court to strike a 
balance between the technological and 
nontechnological arts, embracing broad patentability 
for the former while excluding the latter from 
patentability.  The question on which that balance 
turns is whether a process provides a technological 
contribution.  Patenting technological inventions 
                                                      
3   See, e.g., Dep’t of Homeland Security, The National Strategy 
to Secure Cyberspace (Feb. 2003), available at http://www. 
dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/National_Cyberspace_Strategy.pdf.  
4   See, e.g., Dep’t of Transportation, U.S. Department of 
Transportation Announces Computer Software to Improve 
Transportation Decisions, (Oct. 2, 2000), available at 
http://www.dot.gov/affairs/fhwa6300.htm; Heinz Erzberger, 
Transforming the NAS: The Next Generation Air Traffic Control 
System, NASA (2004), available at http://ntrs.nasa.gov/ 
archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20050110294_2005093599.pdf. 
5   See, e.g.,  Isabelle M. Germano, Advanced Techniques in 
Image-Guided Brain and Spine Surgery 49 (2002). 
6   See, e.g.,  M. Broy, Challenges in Automotive Software 
Engineering, International Conference on Software 
Engineering, Association for Computing Machinery (2006). 
7   Seee.g.Blackberry Operating System Downloadsavailable 
at http://www.blackberryfaq.com/index.php/BlackBerry_Operati 
ng_System_Downloads. 
  

 
 
 
 
 
 

promotes innovation.  No sound patent policy 
supports protection for non-technological processes, 
including non-technological business methods. 
ARGUMENT 
I.  THE PROPER INQUIRY FOR PATENTABLE 
SUBJECT MATTER FOCUSES ON 
WHETHER THE CLAIMED PROCESS 
MAKES A TECHNOLOGICAL 
CONTRIBUTION. 
The Constitution does not contemplate unfettered 
authority to issue patents.  See U.S. Const. art. I, § 8.   
Instead, the Constitution provides a “qualified 
authority * * * limited to the promotion of advances 
in the ‘useful arts.’ ”  Graham v. John Deere Co., 383 
U.S. 1, 5 (1966); see also  KSR, 550 U.S. at 427 
(reaffirming that patents are designed to promote 
“the progress of useful arts”).  As a result, “[t]he 
standard of patentability is a constitutional 
standard[.]”  Great Atlantic & Pac. Tea Co. v. 
Supermarket Equip. Corp., 340 U.S. 147, 155 (1950) 
(Douglas, J., concurring).   
Consistent with that constitutional standard, this 
Court’s precedents over two centuries have tethered 
patentability to technological innovation.  As the 
Court explained in Pfaff v. Wells Electronics, 
Inc., 525 U.S. 55, 63 (1998), “the patent system 
represents a carefully crafted bargain that 
encourages both the creation and the public 
disclosure of new and useful advances in technology
in return for an exclusive monopoly for a limited 
period of time.” (Emphasis added.)   
In fact, Congress created the Federal Circuit as an 
exclusive appellate court for patent cases in hopes 
  

 
 
 
 
 
 

that “increased uniformity would ‘strengthen the 
United States patent system in such a way as to 
foster technological growth and industrial 
innovation.’ ”    Markman v. Westview Instruments, 
Inc., 517 U.S. 370, 390 (1996) (emphasis added and 
citation omitted); see  also  Bonito Boats, Inc. v. 
Thunder Craft Boats, Inc., 489 U.S. 141, 150-151 
(1989) (“The federal patent system thus embodies a 
carefully crafted bargain for encouraging the 
creation and disclosure of new, useful, and 
nonobvious  advances in technology and design in 
return for the exclusive right to practice the 
invention for a period of years.”) (emphasis added); 
Diamond v. Chakrabarty, 447 U.S. 303, 316 (1980) 
(“Mr. Justice Douglas reminded that the inventions 
most benefiting mankind are those that ‘push back 
the frontiers of chemistry, physics, and the like.’ ”) 
(citation omitted); Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co.
340 U.S. at 154-155 (Douglas, J., concurring) (“The 
Framers plainly did not want [patent] monopolies 
freely granted.  The invention, to justify a patent, had 
to serve the ends of science—to push back the frontiers 
of chemistry, physics, and the like; to make a 
distinctive contribution to scientific knowledge. * * * 
Patents serve a higher end—the advancement of 
science.”) (emphases added).8 
Patentability has been—and must continue to be—
interpreted with “ 
‘reference to [the] standard 
written into the Constitution.’ ”  Graham, 383 U.S. at 
                                                      
8   The technological contribution standard is a constitutional 
one, and all discussion of that standard described in this brief is 
a synthesis of the requirements for subject matter patentability 
under U.S. patent law.  The standards for subject matter 
patentability adopted by non-U.S. jurisdictions have no bearing 
on the constitutional standard that governs here.  
  

 
 
 
 
 
 
10 
6 (citation omitted).  Thus, to be patentable, a claim 
must further the purpose “of advancing the useful 
arts—the process today called technological 
innovation.”  Paulik v. Rizkalla, 760 F.2d 1270, 
1276 (Fed. Cir. 1985) (Newman, J.) (en banc); see 
also Karl B. Lutz, Patents and Science: A 
Clarification of the Patent Clause of the U.S. 
Constitution, 18 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 50, 54 (1949) 
(“The term ‘useful arts,’ as used in the Constitution 
* * * is best represented in modern language by the 
word ‘technology.’”).9  The “most fundamental 
attribute of the useful arts” is that they “relate to 
controlling the forces and materials of nature and 
putting them to work in a practical way for 
utilitarian ends serving mankind’s physical welfare.”  
Robert I. Coulter, The Field of the Statutory Useful 
Arts, Part II, 34 J. Patent Office Soc’y 487, 498-499 
(1952). 
The baseline, then, of this Court’s precedent as 
informed by the constitutional standard of promoting 
the useful arts is that to be patentable subject 
matter, a “process” must involve a technological 
                                                      
9   See also, e.g., In re Foster, 438 F.2d 1011, 1014-15 (CCPA 
1971) (“All that is necessary * * * to make a sequence of 
operational steps a statutory ‘process’ within 35 U.S.C. § 101 is 
that it be in the technological arts.”); In re Musgrave, 431 F.2d 
882, 893 (CCPA 1970) (patentable processes must “be in the 
technological arts so as to be in consonance with the 
Constitutional purpose to promote the progress of ‘useful 
arts.’ ”); see also John R. Thomas, The Patenting of the Liberal 
Professions, 40 B.C. L. Rev. 1139, 1164 (1999) (constitutional 
stricture of promoting the “useful arts” is in contrast to 
promoting the “seven ‘liberal arts’ and the four ‘fine arts’ of 
classical learning.”). 
  

 
 
 
 
 
 
11 
contribution.10  And if the process relies on a 
fundamental principle—a law of nature, abstract 
idea, natural phenomena or mental process—that 
process as claimed in the patent must represent a 
specific application of that principle to avoid 
preempting all its uses.  This Court’s precedents over 
more than a century have identified these 
fundamental principles as belonging to humankind 
and not the proper subject of a patent monopoly.   
Pre-1952 cases.  Long before the 1952 Patent Act 
introduced the term “process” in setting out 
patentable subject matter, this Court had made clear 
that patent protection could extend to processes.11  
                                                      
10  Contrary to the Bilski majority view, the concept of scientific 
or technological innovation is not an ambiguous one.  As Judge 
Mayer pointed out, “the meaning of those terms is not 
particularly difficult to grasp.”  Pet. App. 130a (Mayer, J., 
dissenting).  This is not to say that technology is static.  
Technology, by its nature, is constantly changing, and 
tomorrow’s technological advances often seem unimaginable 
today.  A rigid test for patentability ignores the fundamental 
dynamics of technological evolution that the patent laws are 
designed to protect.       
11  Although the Patent Act did not use the term process until 
1952, “a process has historically enjoyed patent protection 
because it was considered a form of ‘art’ as that term was used 
in the 1793 Act.”  Diamond v. Diehr, 450 U.S. 175, 182 (1981).  
“Analysis of the eligibility of a claim of patent protection for a 
‘process’ did not change with the addition of that term to § 101.”  
Id. at 184; see also S. Rep. No. 82-1979, at 5 (1952) (“Th[e] 
language [of the predecessor provision to § 101] has been 
preserved except that the word ‘art’ which appears in the 
present statute has been changed to the word ‘process.”); 
Tilghman v. Proctor, 102 U.S. 707, 722 (1881) (“A 
manufacturing process is clearly an art, within the meaning of 
the law.”); Cochrane v. Deener, 94 U.S. 780, 787-88 (1877) 
(process is patentable); Corning v. Burden, 56 U.S. (15 How.) 
252, 267 (1854) (same). 
  

 
 
 
 
 
 
12 
But the Court’s early decisions also made clear that 
not all processes are patentable.  In 1854, for 
example, this Court rejected as unpatentable a 
process claim broadly covering the concept of 
transmitting messages using an electromagnetic 
current.  See O’Reilly v. Morse, 56 U.S. (15 How.) 62, 
112-113 (1854).  As the Court explained, that claim 
was unpatentable because it would protect, and 
thereby preempt, all conceivable solutions to 
accomplish the recited result.  Id. at 113.  Morse was 
entitled to a patent only for the specific method of 
transmitting messages by way of an electromagnetic 
current that he actually invented—i.e., his 
technological contribution to the useful arts.  Id. at 
117.  Because it properly focused on the substance of 
Morse’s invention and its technological character, the 
Court was able to distinguish between those claims 
that were patentable and those that were 
unpatentable.  See also Rubber-Tip Pencil Co. v. 
Howard, 87 U.S. (20 Wall.) 498, 507 (1874) (“An idea 
of itself is not patentable, but a new device by which 
it may be made practically useful is.”); Le Roy v. 
Tatham, 55 U.S. (14 How.) 156, 175 (1853) (“A 
principle, in the abstract, is a fundamental truth; an 
original cause; a motive; these cannot he patented, as 
no one can claim in either of them an exclusive 
right.”).12 
                                                      
12 
 The circuit courts routinely applied this first rule of 
patentability in holding method claims unpatentable where 
they make no technological contribution or preempt a 
fundamental principle.  See, e.g., Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, 
Inc. v. Marzall, 180 F.2d 26, 27-28 (D.C. Cir. 1950); Loew’s 
Drive-in Theatres, Inc. v. Park-In Theatres, Inc., 174 F.2d 547, 
553 (1st Cir. 1949); Hotel Sec. Checking Co. v. Lorraine Co., 160 
F. 467, 469-472 (2d Cir. 1908). 
  

 
 
 
 
 
 
13 
Post-1952 cases.  As part of a general revision to 
the patent laws in 1952, Congress substituted the 
term “process” for the term “art” in setting out 
patentable subject matter.  Cases following the 1952 
amendment reinforce that patentable “processes” 
require a technological innovation.  In Gottschalk v. 
Benson, 409 U.S. 63 (1972), the Court held 
unpatentable a claimed “method for converting 
binary-coded decimal (BCD) numerals into pure 
binary numerals.”  Id. at 64.  The claimed process 
was unpatentable because it was not “limited to any 
particular art or technology, to any particular 
apparatus or machinery, or to any particular end 
use,” but rather “purported to cover any use of the 
claimed method in a general-purpose digital 
computer of any type.”  Id.  The claimed method did 
not constitute a practical application of any 
fundamental principle and was thus ineligible for 
patent protection.  In ruling, the Court explained 
that although “[i]t 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,’ ” the Court 
declined to “hold that no process could ever qualify if 
it did not meet the requirements of our prior 
precedents.”  Id. at 71.  
A few years later, in Parker v. Flook, 437 U.S. 584, 
594-596 (1978), the Court held unpatentable a 
claimed method for computing an “alarm limit” in 
the conversion of hydrocarbons.  This claimed 
process was unpatentable because it simply provided 
a formula for computing an alarm limit, without 
specifying or disclosing any relevant variables or 
processes at work.  Id. at 586.  As the Court 
explained, an application of a mathematical formula, 
  

 
 
 
 
 
 
14 
principle, or phenomenon of nature may be patented 
only if “there is some other inventive concept in its 
application.”  Id. at 594.  Accord Mackay Radio & 
Tel. Co. v. Radio Corp. of Am., 306 U.S. 86, 94 (1939) 
(“While a scientific truth, or the mathematical 
expression of it, is not a patentable invention, a novel 
and useful structure created with the aid of the 
knowledge of scientific truth may be.”). 
Finally, in Diehr, 450 U.S. 175, the Court held 
patentable a “process for molding raw, uncured 
synthetic rubber into cured precision products” 
because the “claims were not directed to a 
mathematical algorithm or an improved method of 
calculation but rather recited an improved process 
for molding rubber articles by solving a practical 
problem which had risen in the molding of rubber 
products.”  Id. at 177, 181.  As the Court explained, 
“when a claim containing a mathematical formula 
implements or applies that formula in a structure or 
process which, when considered as a whole, is 
performing a function which the patent laws were 
designed to protect (e.g., transforming or reducing an 
article to a different state or thing), then the claim 
satisfies the requirements of § 101.”  Id. at 192. 
All of these cases reiterate that an inventor may 
rely on or apply a fundamental principle to achieve a 
specific technological innovation—but an inventor 
may not claim a process that would preempt all uses 
of that fundamental principle in subsequent 
technological advances.13  “Phenomena of nature, 
                                                      
13  See Andrew A. Schwartz, The Patent Office Meets the Poison 
Pill: Why Legal Methods Cannot be Patented, 20 Harv. J. Law & 
Tech. 333, 357 (2007) (The “clear and consistent body of 
Supreme Court case law establishes that the term ‘invention’ 
  

 
 
 
 
 
 
15 
though just discovered, mental processes, and 
abstract intellectual concepts are not patentable, as 
they are the basic tools of scientific and technological 
work.”  Benson, 409 U.S. at 67; accord Chakrabarty
447 U.S. at 309 (“The laws of nature, physical 
phenomena, and abstract ideas have been held not 
patentable.”).   
This Court has observed that it is not always easy 
to draw the line between patentable and 
unpatentable subject matter.  See Flook, 437 U.S. at 
589 (“The line between a patentable ‘process’ and an 
unpatentable ‘principle’ is not always clear”); Lab. 
Corp. of Am. Holdings v. Metabolite Labs., Inc., 548 
U.S. 124, 134 (2006) (Breyer, J., dissenting from 
dismissal of writ of certiorari) (“[T]he category of 
non-patentable ‘phenomena of nature,’ like the 
categories of ‘mental processes,’ and ‘abstract 
intellectual concepts,’ is not easy to define.”).14    But 
one unifying principle is evident:  an invention must 
provide a technological contribution to satisfy the 
requirement of patentable subject matter. 
This inquiry can not be addressed by a rigid 
formula; it must be flexible to accommodate the 
changing nature of innovation.  Innovations that are 
                                                      
encompasses anything made by man that utilizes or harnesses 
one or more ‘laws of nature’ for human benefit.”).  
14  The Court has exercised great care in addressing new fields 
of technology—to ensure that early patents do not improperly 
claim a fundamental principle and thereby discourage 
subsequent development.  See, e.g.Flook at 596 (“It is our duty 
to construe the patent statutes as they now read, in light of our 
prior precedents, and we must proceed cautiously when we are 
asked to extend patent rights into areas wholly unforeseen by 
Congress.”).   
  

 
 
 
 
 
 
16 
clearly nontechnological—such as Bilski’s claims to a 
method of hedging commodity risk—are not 
patentable subject matter.  On the other hand, 
clearly technological innovations, such as the 
software that operates a magnetic resonance imaging 
(MRI) machine15 or a word processor, are patentable 
subject matter.   
II. THE 
MACHINE-OR-TRANSFORMATION 
TEST IS A USEFUL, BUT NOT 
UNIVERSALLY DISPOSITIVE, AID TO 
DETERMINING PATENTABILITY. 
The Federal Circuit concluded that its machine-or-
transformation test would “surely” determine 
whether a claimed process is patent-eligible under 
Section 101.  Pet. App. 12a.  While the machine-or-
transformation test may, in some circumstances, be a 
useful analytic tool to determine whether a claimed 
process in fact includes a technological contribution 
that does not preempt a fundamental principle, it is 
far short of a “sure[ ]” one-size-fits-all litmus test for 
subject matter patentability.  Enshrining this test as 
the sole means of determining patent eligibility 
would be detrimental to innovations the patent 
system was intended to promote. By focusing the 
inquiry on whether a process is tied to a particular 
machine or transforms a particular article to a 
different state or thing, the machine-or-
transformation test focuses unduly on the form of the 
claimed process, which in many cases distracts from 
properly evaluating the substance of the invention for 
                                                      
15  See,  e.g., Robson Macedo & David Bluemke, New MRI 
Software: Nifty Spins, Imaging Economics (Feb. 2006), 
available at http://www.imagingeconomics.com/issues/articles/ 
2006-02_02.asp. 
  

 
 
 
 
 
 
17 
whether it makes a (patentable) technological 
contribution.  
Consider, for example, the patent claim at issue in 
this case.  If Bilski had merely added that the “risk 
hedging” method is performed on a computer, this 
would not appear to change the nature of the 
invention; the method remains unpatentable subject 
matter because it makes no technological 
contribution.  The machine-or-transformation test, 
however, directs the focus to the arbitrarily added 
computer, diverting attention away from what 
should be the substantive inquiry into whether the 
inventive process provides a technological 
contribution.  See also  Diehr,  450 U.S. at 192 
(warning against “allow[ing] a competent draftsman 
to evade the recognized limitations on the type of 
subject matter eligible for patent protection”).  
The Section 101 inquiry therefore should remain 
focused on the overall purpose of the patent system: 
to protect technological advances.  See General Elec. 
Co. v. Jewel Incandescent Lamp Co., 326 U.S. 242, 
249 (1945) (invention is unpatentable if it “d[oes] not 
advance the frontiers of science in this narrow field 
so as to satisfy the exacting standards of our patent 
system”).  The initial inquiry for patentability should 
be whether the claimed process signifies a useful 
technological advance, with the machine-or-
transformation test as a subordinate inquiry in 
appropriate instances.  Using the machine-or-
transformation test as anything more than a useful 
analytic tool to assist in evaluating whether a non-
preemptive technological innovation is present will 
“risk[ ] hobbling” advances like software technology 
and imperil “patent protection for tomorrow’s 
  

 
 
 
 
 
 
18 
technologies.”  Pet. App. 143a (Rader, J., dissenting).  
As this Court stated in KSR, application of the 
patent laws “must not be confined within a test or 
formulation too constrained to serve its purpose.”  
550 U.S. at 427.   
III.  SOFTWARE INVENTIONS THAT MAKE 
TECHNOLOGICAL CONTRIBUTIONS ARE 
PATENTABLE.  
The invention before the Court is directed to a 
method of hedging commodity risk, a 
nontechnological business method.  But the Federal 
Circuit’s opinion addresses much more: “what test or 
set of criteria governs the determination * * * as to 
whether a claim to a process is patentable under 
§ 101 or, conversely, is drawn to unpatentable 
subject matter because it claims only a fundamental 
principle.”  Pet. App. 8a.  And when that court 
assessed Bilski’s claims and found them wanting, it 
drew on its own precedents in a variety of fields— 
including information technology.  See Pet. App. 22a 
(citing, among others, In re Abele, 684 F.2d 902, 903 
(CCPA 1982) (invention in the field of image 
processing “particularly as applied to computerized 
axial tomography or CAT scans”).  It accordingly is 
not particularly surprising that in subsequent 
proceedings before the Board of Patent Appeals and 
Interferences (the “Board”) and in the federal district 
courts, the machine-or-transformation test has been 
automatically applied to information technology 
inventions—with a particular critical focus on 
software.  See, e.g.,  Ex Parte Petculescu, No. 2008-
2859, 2009 WL 1718896, at * 7 (BPAI June 4, 2009) 
(rejecting software per se claims on the basis that 
“[b]ecause the software does not transform a tangible 
  

 
 
 
 
 
 
19 
article, the claims do not recite statutory subject 
matter” and the claims “fail the machine-or-
transformation test, and are not patent-eligible 
process claims”); Ex parte Mazzara, No. 2008-4741, 
2009 WL 291178, at *12 n.3 (BPAI Feb. 5, 2009) (“No 
portion of this decision should be interpreted as 
holding that claims to computer software, per se, are 
deemed to be directed to patentable subject matter 
under 35 U.S.C. § 101.”). 
The Federal Circuit’s test has thus precipitated 
confusion, as the Board and the courts struggle to 
determine the subject matter patentability of 
software in cases that heretofore would have been 
properly and easily recognizable as technological 
(and thus presumptively patentable subject matter).  
This sudden and unjustified removal of clearly 
technological inventions from patentability cannot be 
tolerated.    
Software is the means through which innovation is 
expressed in the Information Age; it is “the new 
physical infrastructure of the information age.”  
Report to the President, “Information Technology 
Research: Investing in Our Future,” President’s 
Information Tech. Advisory Comm. (PITAC), Nat’l 
Coordination Office for Computing, Info. & 
Commc’ns (1999).16    We  rely  daily  on  software 
                                                      
16  Not only does software perform the functions once the 
province of electrical and mechanical systems, but the field of 
software technology has created new vistas of technological 
innovation that have no analog in their predecessor 
technologies.  For example, a software-controlled electronic fuel 
injection system has replaced, and now performs more 
efficiently the function of, carburetors in our vehicles.  And 
software that performs data mining, see,  e.g., U.S. Patent No. 
  

 
 
 
 
 
 
20 
embedded in everything from computers to 
automobiles to cell phones to security and medical 
equipment for our continued health, safety, 
employment, communication, and social interaction.  
And it is through software that we are able to take 
on the major challenges confronting our modern 
networked world—including those presented by 
climate change, supply chains for food and medicine, 
security concerns ranging from identity theft to 
terrorism, and the management of financial systems.   
A few examples are illustrative.  To combat the 
wide range of security threats confronting their 
constituents, governments are implementing 
advanced security systems based on sophisticated 
software to perform tasks such as license plate 
recognition, trending analysis, and intelligent 
searching.  These systems allow officials to monitor 
from a central system everything from daily traffic 
patterns to suspicious activities and broader public 
safety concerns.17    
Air traffic control systems also employ 
sophisticated software to process information 
received from multiple inbound and outbound 
aircraft including location, altitude, and speed; to 
                                                      
6,094,651 “Discovery-driven exploration of OLAP data cubes,” is 
a new technological innovation with no hardware analog.  
17  See,  e.g., W. David Gardner, Chicago Taps IBM, Firetide to 
Install “Operation Virtual Shield,” InformationWeek (Sept. 27, 
2007),  available at http://www.informationweek.com/news/ 
mobility/security/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=202102357; Jim 
McKay,  Police Tout License Plate Recognition Systems as the 
Next Big Thing Government Technology (May 12, 2008), 
available at http://www.govtech.com/gt/273037. 
  

 
 
 
 
 
 
21 
monitor weather patterns; and to feed this data to 
advanced collision avoidance software systems.18   
Software also enables more efficient resource 
usage.  We typically extract only 1/3 of the oil in an 
existing reserve using current technology.  Software 
imaging techniques enable real-time 3-D models of 
oil reservoirs, reducing guesswork and increasing 
output.19   
Consider, too, software contributing to our Nation’s 
financial security.  Under the Patriot Act, financial 
institutions are required to assess the risk that their 
customers may be laundering money.  Sophisticated 
software systems allow financial institutions to 
collect and analyze millions of pages of data from the 
web and other sources to spot complex patterns 
indicative of potential money-laundering activities 
that could not previously be detected.20  
                                                      
18  See U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission, Air Traffic 
Control,  available at http://www.centennialofflight.gov/essay/ 
Government_Role/Air_traffic_control/POL15.htm. 
19  Seee.g., Denise Brehm, MIT, Dep’t of Civil & Envtl. Eng’g, 
CEE Mapping Technology could make oil extraction more 
efficient (Jan. 16, 2009), available at http://cee.mit.edu/ 
news/releases/2009/oilrecovery;  see also Dep’t of Energy, 
Diagnostics, Imaging, and Fundamental R&D: Advanced 
Diagnostics & Imaging Research, Oil & Natural Gas Supply & 
Delivery
available at http://fossil.energy.gov/programs/ 
oilgas/fundamental/index.html. 
20  See,  e.g.,  IBM and Semagix Join Forces to Combat Money 
Laundering (Feb. 4, 2004), available at http://domino.watson. 
ibm.com/comm/pr.nsf/pages/news.20040204_money.html; 
see 
also Corp. for Am. Banking, Anti-Money Laundering (AML) 
Transaction Monitoring Software
available at 
http://www.aba.com/CAB/cab_fortent.htm. 
  

 
 
 
 
 
 
22 
In view of the significant technological nature of 
these inventions and the critical global challenges 
they address, IBM finds alarming decisions in the 
wake of Bilski concluding that software is excluded 
from patentable subject matter.  In many instances 
these decisions explicitly acknowledge that the 
identical function deemed unpatentable in software 
would have been patentable if limited to embodiment 
in hardware, and that the mere inclusion of a 
software element in a claim would render the claim 
unpatentable.  Seee.g.Ex Parte Altman, No. 2008-
2386, 2009 WL 1709111, at *5 (BPAI May 29, 2009) 
(“[W]e conclude that the scope of the claimed ‘system’ 
broadly encompasses both statutory (hardware 
based) and non statutory (disembodied software or 
computer program per se) embodiments. * * *  ‘If a 
claim covers material not found in any of the four 
statutory categories, that claim falls outside the 
plainly expressed scope of § 101 even if the subject 
matter is otherwise new and useful.’ ”) (citations 
omitted); Ex Parte Godwin, No. 2008-0130, 2008 WL 
4898213, at *2 (BPAI Nov. 13, 2008) (claim 
unpatentable where specification “clearly indicates 
that Appellants’ invention is not limited solely to 
hardware embodiments” and can “be realized in 
hardware, software, or a combination of hardware 
and software”). 
Such distinction is the height of a form-over-
substance analysis; after all, the Board clearly 
recognizes the patentability of the claimed function, 
and finds that function to be unpatentable subject 
matter only because the function is or may be 
  

 
 
 
 
 
 
23 
realized in software.21  Far more troubling is what 
this faulty analysis portends for software innovators.  
Many software inventions are only commercially 
practicable in software or have no hardware analog.  
This leaves software innovators with a Hobson’s 
choice: patent their inventions in hardware—
enabling competitors to learn these innovative 
functions and implement them in software immune 
from claims of patent infringement—or completely 
forgo patent protection for software innovations and 
maintain their secrecy if possible.   
A.   Courts Have Recognized That Software Is 
Patentable Subject Matter. 
The courts have guided the software industry in 
its reliance on patent protection.  In the early days of 
software innovation, copyright was the preferred 
form of intellectual property protection.  See Ronald 
J. Mann, Do Patents Facilitate Financing in the 
Software Industry?, 83 Tex. L. Rev. 961, 971-972 
(2005).  A series of decisions in the early 1990s 
culminating in the First Circuit’s decision in Lotus 
Development Corp. v.  Borland International, Inc.
successively diminished the protection provided by 
copyright to software, recognizing that it was 
inappropriate for copyright law to protect the 
functional aspects of software. 49 F.3d 807 (1st Cir. 
1995), aff’d per curiam by an equally divided Court
516 U.S. 233 (1996).  In Lotus, the First Circuit held 
that the menu command hierarchy of a computer 
spreadsheet program was “uncopyrightable” as user 
                                                      
21  By way of analogy, imagine the patent office fifty years ago 
declining to patent an innovative pump system merely because 
it was claimed as an electrically actuated pump rather than a 
manually activated pump.   
  

 
 
 
 
 
 
24 
interface software that functions as a method of 
operating a computer program. See 49 F.3d at 819 
(Boudin, J., concurring) (“The computer program is a 
means for causing something to happen; it has a 
mechanical utility, an instrumental role, in 
accomplishing the world's work.”); see also Computer 
Science & Telecomm. Bd., Nat’l Research Council, 
Intellectual Property Issues in Software 24 (1991) 
(“Copyright protection is extended only to expression 
of ideas, not to the underlying ideas themselves.”); 17 
U.S.C. 102(b) (“In no case does copyright protection 
for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, 
procedure, process, system, method of operation, 
concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the 
form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, 
or embodied in such work.”). While copyright law 
accordingly provides important protections against 
copying the expression embodied in software, the 
functional innovations that software provides are not 
effectively protected by copyright law.    
By limiting copyright protection for software, the 
courts have appropriately guided software 
innovators to seek patent protection.  Josh Lerner & 
Feng Zhu, What is the Impact of Sofware Patent 
Shifts?:  Evidence from Lotus v. Borland, Harvard 
Univ. & Nat’l Bur. of Econ. Research, 25 Int’l J. of 
Ind. Org. 511 (2007); Mann, supra, 83 Tex. L. Rev. at 
971-972 (2005).  This judicial direction has resulted 
in substantial economic, technological, and societal 
benefit because software patents promote innovation 
both within and beyond the field of software.22   
                                                      
22  Without the benefit of patent protection, software companies 
would be forced to rely on secrecy which limits the public’s 
ability to learn from software innovations, since patent 
documents are a significant source of technological disclosure. 
  

 
 
 
 
 
 
25 
B. 
 
Software Patent Protection Provides 
Significant Economic, Technological, and 
Societal Benefits. 
The software industry is one of the most vibrant 
sectors of our economy. The software and 
information industries together generated $564.1 
billion in revenue in 2005.  Software & Info. Indus. 
Ass’n,  Software and Information Driving the Global 
Knowledge Economy 27 (2008).  These industries 
grew 10.8 percent in 2005, more than three times the 
overall U.S. Gross Domestic Product’s growth of 3.2 
percent that year.  Id.  at 7.  The industries also 
represented 13 percent of total overseas sales of all 
U.S. industries in 2004 and grew direct export sales 
by more than 30 percent from 2000 to 2006.  Id. at 9.  
Software and information technology is the fourth 
largest industry in the United States—ahead of food 
manufacturing and telecommunications.  Id. at 8. 
 The software and information technology 
industries are also a significant force in the United 
States labor market.  In 2006, the industries 
employed more than 2.7 million Americans, adding 
more than 400,000 jobs between 1997 and 2006.  Id.  
These gains contrasted sharply with declines in 
other  industries,  including  telecommunications         
(-8%), transportation equipment manufacturing         
                                                      
See,  e.g.,  In re Alappat, 33 F.3d 1526, 1571 (Fed. Cir. 1994) 
(Newman, J., concurring). Given the reality that software 
source code is human readable, and object code can be reverse 
engineered, it is difficult for software developers to resort to 
secrecy. Thus, without patent protection, the incentives to 
innovate in the field of software are significantly reduced. 
Patent protection has promoted the free sharing of source code 
on a patentee’s terms—which has fueled the explosive growth of 
open source software development. 
  

 
 
 
 
 
 
26 
(-13%), and chemical manufacturing (-13%).  Id.  
Additionally, the U.S. Department of Labor has 
projected the labor market in the software industry 
will continue to be among the fastest growing from 
2006 to 2016.  Dep’t of Labor, Occupational Outlook 
Handbook 9 (2008). And it projects that computer 
software engineers will enjoy the largest job growth 
for candidates with bachelor’s degrees during that 
time, with doctoral degree recipients in the field of 
computer research and information science projected 
to enjoy the second-fastest growth in job 
opportunities.  Id.  Protecting software patents is 
essential to the continued expansion of this labor 
market.  
  The benefits of software innovation also extend to 
other industries.  Software is an enabling technology, 
and software innovations are not confined to 
software companies.  They help drive innovations in 
many sectors of the American economy, including 
industries such as transportation, security, energy, 
and in biotechnology research.  Supra at 7; see also 
Pet. App. 143a (Rader, J., dissenting) (“Innovation 
has moved beyond the brick and mortar world. * * * 
Today’s software transforms our lives without 
physical anchors.”).   
The economic benefits that flow from software 
innovation are the product of significant investment 
in research and development.  And the incentives 
provided by the patent system encourage that 
investment by providing the same quid pro quo as in 
other technology fields: the promise of economic 
rewards in exchange for the public disclosure of 
useful inventions.  See generally Testimony of 
Nicholas M. Donofrio, Executive Vice President, 
  

 
 
 
 
 
 
27 
Innovation and Technology, IBM Corp., Before the 
H.R. Comm. on Science (July 21, 2005); Cong. Office 
of Tech. Assessment, Finding a Balance: Computer 
Software, Intellectual Property, and the Challenge of 
Technological Change, 23 (1992) (recognizing that 
“patent protection is of importance to the U.S. 
software industry”).  The exclusive rights granted to 
patentees encourage software innovators to pursue 
inventions that they might not otherwise pursue, in 
broad and diverse areas.  See generally Mann, supra
83 Tex. L. Rev. 961; John R. Allison, et al.Frontiers 
of Intellectual Property:  Software Patents, 
Incumbents, and Entry, 85 Tex. L. Rev. 1579 (2007).   
Patent protection for software protects innovators 
from appropriation of their efforts by “free-riders.” 
Without patent protection, the risk of appropriation 
may force software innovators into other, more 
promising ventures.  See,  e.g.,  Richard S. Gruner, 
Better Living Through Software: Promoting 
Information Processing Advances Through Patent 
Incentives, 74 St. John’s L. Rev. 977, 1004 (2000).  
The free-rider problem is particularly acute in the 
software sector because software products are 
“vulnerable to rapid, inexpensive copying that 
undercuts the initial developer’s opportunity to 
benefit * * *, thereby undermining its incentives to 
invest in software development.”  Pamela 
Samuelson, et al., A Manifesto Concerning the Legal 
Protections of Computer Programs, 94 Colum. L. Rev. 
2308, 2332 (1994).  While literal copying is the 
province of copyright law, the ease of appropriating 
software source code makes the patented inventions 
included in the code uniquely susceptible to instant 
appropriation.   
  

 
 
 
 
 
 
28 
As software has grown in importance, investment 
in software research and development now rivals the 
investment in hardware research and development. 
This investment has been steadfast, even during the 
recent economic downturn.  See Justin Scheck & 
Paul Glader, R&D Spending Holds Steady in Slump
Wall St. J., A-1 (Apr. 6, 2009).  Moreover, the 
software industry currently commits more than 13% 
of its sales revenue to research and development—a 
figure that is greater than or comparable to other 
research-intensive industries.  Id.see also Corporate 
R&D Scorecard, Tech. Rev. 56-57 (Sept. 2005).  As 
Judge Mayer noted below, patents are of “undeniable 
importance in promoting technological advances,” 
especially advances that require resources and effort 
to develop.  Pet. App. 122a (Mayer, J., dissenting). 
The disclosure required to obtain a patent ensures 
that “the knowledge of the invention enures to the 
people” and “stimulate[s] ideas and the eventual 
development of further significant advances in the 
art.”  Kewanee Oil Co. v. Bicron Corp., 416 U.S. 470, 
481 (1974).  There is no question that the public 
disclosure required to obtain a patent advances 
knowledge, particularly in the fast-paced world of 
software development, by eliminating the need to 
replicate a past discovery and permitting others to 
build on each discovery as it occurs.  Patents play a 
powerful role in the cumulative improvement of 
inventions.  See Report of the President’s 
Commission on the Patent System, To Promote the 
Progress of * * * Useful Arts in an Age of Exploding 
Technology  (1966) (explaining that the “patent 
system encourages early public disclosure of 
technological information,” and that early disclosure 
“reduces the likelihood of duplication of effort by 
  

 
 
 
 
 
 
29 
others and provides a basis for further advances in 
the technology involved”); see also KSR, 550 U.S. at 
427 (“These advances, once part of our shared 
knowledge, define a new threshold from which 
innovation starts once more.”).  Disclosure ensures 
that, among other things, university computer 
science students who will be the developers of the 
next generation of software advancements can study 
the inventions that power our existing software 
systems—which would not happen if the inventions 
were kept secret.  In addition, disclosure of software 
inventions promotes collaboration among software 
developers (such as open source development) and 
interoperability among software platforms (such as 
software interoperability standards).23  
There is no dispute that software is the 
infrastructure of today’s information age; it performs 
the same function as hardware did a generation ago 
and enables new functions beyond those hardware 
can embody.  Sound patent policy compels the 
conclusion that software is patentable subject 
matter.   
                                                      
23 
 
Software interoperability standards such as those 
promulgated by the World Wide Web Consortium (w3c) and the 
Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) are necessary to 
enable the important uses of software, supra at 18-23, which 
require acquisition and assimilation of data from numerous 
heterogeneous sources.  With the advent of patent protection for 
software, firms are able to selectively license innovations on 
favorable terms to the community of standards users, thus 
encouraging other firms to participate in and adopt standards.   
  

 
 
 
 
 
 
30 
IV. NON-TECHNOLOGICAL METHODS 
SHOULD NOT BE PATENTABLE. 
Sound patent policy and this Court’s precedents 
support the patentability of technological software 
innovations.  But no sound precedent or policy 
supports extending patent protection to non-
technological inventions, including non-technological 
processes.   
This Court has expressed concern about the 
patenting of nontechnological methods. See  eBay 
Inc., 547 U.S. at 396-397 (Kennedy, J., concurring); 
Lab. Corp., 548 U.S. at 135-137 (Breyer, J., 
dissenting from dismissal of writ of certiorari).  
These pragmatic concerns are well-placed; they are 
born of the recognition that non-technological 
processes are by their nature focused on the ends 
achieved, not the technological means for achieving 
those ends.  As a result, nontechnological method 
patents preempt any technological means to achieve 
the claimed results.  
Nor is there any evidence that patent-based 
incentives are needed to spur innovation, or fund 
research and development, particularly for 
nontechnological business methods.  “Nowhere in the 
substantial literature on innovation is there a 
statement that the United States economy suffers 
from a lack of innovation in methods of doing 
business.”  Leo J. Raskind, The State Street Bank 
Decision: The Bad Business of Unlimited Patent 
Protection for Methods of Doing Business, 10 
Fordham Intel. Prop., Media & Ent. L.J. 61, 92 
(1999).  As President Coolidge quipped decades ago, 
“the chief business of the American people is 
  

 
 
 
 
 
 
31 
business.”  Claude M. Fuess, Calvin Coolidge, The 
Man from Vermont 358 (1940).     
In addition, to the extent businesses need 
protection for certain aspects of their work that have 
not traditionally enjoyed patent protection, other 
federal and state legal regimes such as unfair 
competition law and trade secret law can and have 
provided that protection.  These legal regimes have 
long policed free-riding and allowed business 
pioneers to reap the rewards of their ideas. See 
Raskind,  State Street, 10 Fordham Intell. Prop., 
Media & Ent. L.J. at 92-93 (noting the “substantial 
anecdotal evidence that competition alone serves as a 
sufficient spur to innovation in business methods.”).  
Patent protection is simply not needed to protect 
non-technological business methods from a market 
failure problem or fill a legal void or to enhance 
social welfare. 
For all of these reasons, non-technological business 
methods (like any other nontechnological innovation) 
should not be patentable subject matter. In most 
cases, it is simple to discern whether a claim is 
directed to a technological innovation or a non-
technological innovation such as an abstract 
business method.  For inventions that defy ready 
classification as technological or nontechnological 
processes, the machine-or-transformation test 
provides useful guidance for differentiating results-
oriented claims that will preempt a whole class of 
technological applications or embodiments from 
those that will not.   
Correctly differentiating between these two classes 
is important:  Issuing patents on non-technological 
business methods raises significant competitive 
  

 
 
 
 
 
 
32 
concerns and diminishes the general social welfare.  
See, e.g., Malla Pollack, Multiple Unconstitutionality 
of Business Method Patents:  Common Sense, 
Congressional Consideration, and Constitutional 
History, 28 Rutgers Computer & Tech. L.J. 76 (2002) 
(“If we grant rights to exclude unnecessarily, we 
raise prices and limit competition with no quid pro 
quo.”).  Broadly claimed abstract methods restrain 
the ability of competitors to develop alternatives to 
the patented invention, thus thwarting a principal 
aspiration of the patent system, which is to foster 
new alternatives.  Slimfold Mfg. Co. v. Kinkead 
Indus., Inc., 932 F.2d 1453, 1457 (Fed. Cir. 1991) 
(“Designing around patents is, in fact, one of the 
ways in which the patent system works to the 
advantage of the public in promoting progress in the 
useful arts, its constitutional purpose.”).24  
The absence of a compelling policy rationale for 
patents on nontechnological processes, including the 
anticompetitive consequences of issuing these 
                                                      
24 Consider, for example, the now-ubiquitous automated teller 
machine (“ATM”).  Numerous patents cover mechanical, 
electrical, and computer-implemented ATM inventions like card 
readers, touch screens, cash dispensers, statement printers, 
and antitheft mechanisms.  The robust competition within the 
ATM industry exemplifies that these patents have encouraged 
industry participants to innovate and allowed their competitors 
to market alternative designs.  Were abstract business methods 
patentable, an inventor’s claim to a “process of performing 
teller-free transactions” could be considered eligible for 
patenting under Section 101 and thereby stymied the 
technological advances in ATM capability and functionality 
over the years.  Much like claim 8 of Samuel Morse’s telegraphy 
patent,  see Morse, 56 U.S. at 113, such an abstract patent, 
untethered to a particular practical application, would 
discourage all others from designing alternative mechanisms 
for meeting the same marketplace needs. 
  

 
 
 
 
 
 
33 
patents, counsels that this Court clarify that 
patentable subject matter is limited to inventions 
involving technological contributions.  See eBay Inc.
547 U.S. at 397 (Kennedy, J., concurring) 
(recognizing the “potential vagueness and suspect 
validity” of many business method patents).  The 
patent system is designed to serve a specific 
constitutional purpose:  advancing the “useful arts.”  
But granting monopolies on nontechnological 
inventions  such  as  abstract  ways  of  thinking  about 
business or human interactions has nothing to do 
with advancing the useful arts—and in fact leads to 
market inefficiencies and harms the public welfare.   
Non-technological patents have eroded public 
confidence in our patent system, diminished its 
public benefit, and imposed significant burdens on 
businesses that have dubious claims asserted against 
them.  For example, patents on non-technological 
processes like developing legal strategies should be 
outside the ambit of patentable subject matter.  See 
Stephanie L. Valera, Damned if You Do, Doomed if 
You Don’t: Patenting Legal Methods and Its Affect on 
Lawyers’ Professional Responsibilities, 60 Fla. L. 
Rev. 1145, 1146 (2008) (“Imagine, before advising 
each client, having to confer with the U.S. Patent 
and Trademark Office (USPTO) to determine 
whether another lawyer already owns a patent to the 
legal strategy you wish to propose.  Imagine having 
to pay someone so your client can follow legal advice 
you wish to impart.”); U.S. Patent No. 6,607,389, 
Systems and Methods for Making Jury Selection 
Determinations (issued Aug. 19, 2003).25   
                                                      
25  To be clear, it is not the field of the invention that 
determines patentability—which would be another improper 
  

 
 
 
 
 
 
34 
At its core, the patent system serves a 
constitutional purpose of promoting technological 
advances.  The proper definition of patentable 
subject matter therefore cannot and should not 
subject the public to rent-seeking on 
nontechnological innovations.     
The innovative aspect of Bilski’s claims has nothing 
to do with technological advancement; it is about the 
abstract intellectual concept of hedging risk.  But the 
“[t]he patent system is intended to protect and 
promote advances in science and technology, not 
ideas about how to structure commercial 
transactions.”  Pet. App. 106a (Mayer, J., dissenting).  
The constitutional purpose of advancing the 
technological arts would not be served by finding 
Bilski’s process patentable.  See  Great Atlantic & 
Pacific Tea Co., 340 U.S. at 156 (“The question of 
invention goes back to the constitutional standard in 
every case.”) (Douglas, J., concurring).  The Court’s 
concern with avoiding the preemption of scientific 
principles is designed to ensure that patents issue 
only for innovations that use or apply those scientific 
principles and make a technological contribution to 
the advancement of the useful arts.  Bilski’s claim 
makes no technological contribution of any kind and 
would effectively grant a monopoly on use of the 
abstract intellectual concept of hedging.  Pet. App. 
                                                      
form-over-substance analysis—but rather, the nature of the 
invention irrespective of field.  It is possible to have 
technological inventions even in fields not generally associated 
with technology; likewise, it is possible to see nontechnological 
innovations in fields generally closely associated with 
technology. 
  

 
 
 
 
 
 
35 
134a (Rader, J., dissenting); Pet. App. 106a (Mayer, 
J., dissenting). 
Throughout our history, the constitutional and 
statutory standard for patent-eligible subject matter 
has been sufficiently flexible to adapt to new 
technological innovations—ranging from improved 
methods of manufacturing flour, Cochrane, 94 U.S. 
at 781, 791, to man-made micro-organisms, 
Chakrabarty, 447 U.S. at 318, to a chemical process 
involving a programmed digital computer, Diehr, 450 
U.S. at 191-193.  Each of these flexible applications 
of the appropriate scope of patentable subject matter 
has sought to further technological advances by 
permitting the application of fundamental principles 
to new and useful ends while ensuring that these 
fundamental principles themselves remain available 
to all.  See United States v. Dubilier Condenser Corp.
289 U.S. 178, 188 (1933) (“the act of invention * * * 
consists neither in finding out the laws of nature, nor 
in fruitful research as to the operation of natural 
laws, but in discovering how those laws may be 
utilized or applied for some beneficial purpose, by a 
process, a device or a machine”).  
The trilogy of BensonFlook, and Diehr made clear 
that a process, to be eligible for patenting, must be 
more than an abstract idea or concept—even a very 
useful abstract idea or concept.  Bilski’s claimed 
method amounts to a claim on the intellectual 
concept of hedging and was properly denied.  But 
when it announced a one-size-fits-all test for 
patentability in the process of deciding Bilski’s case, 
the Federal Circuit precipitated confusion over its 
applicability to software patentability.  Software is 
and must remain patentable subject matter. 
  

 
 
 
 
 
 
36 
CONCLUSION 
  Patentable subject matter under Section 101 is 
restricted to inventions that involve a technological 
contribution and do not preempt a fundamental 
principle.  Returning the focus to these substantive 
principles of patentability is necessary to restore 
balance to the patent system’s policy objective of 
fostering innovation without improperly impacting 
competition. 
Respectfully submitted, 
MARC A. EHRLICH 
CATHERINE E. STETSON * 
MANNY W. SCHECTER 
JESSICA L. ELLSWORTH 
MARIAN UNDERWEISER 
HOGAN & HARTSON LLP 
IBM CORPORATION  
555 Thirteenth St., N.W. 
One North Castle Dr.  
Washington, D.C. 20004 
Armonk, NY 10504 
 (202) 637-5491 
(914) 765-4260 
 
 
K
RANDALL BLUESTONE 
ENNETH R. CORSELLO 
IBM
VAN N. NGUY 
 CORPORATION 
1101 Kitchawan Rd. 
IBM CORPORATION 
Yorktown Heights, NY        650 Harry Rd.  
    10598 
San Jose, CA 95120 
(914) 945-2631 
(408) 927-3386 
* Counsel of Record 
Counsel for Amicus Curiae