Supreme Court Leaves Us Hanging On Crucial Patent Case

from the big-surprise-there dept

We’ve become used to the Supreme Court avoiding major patent issues, as it tends to rule on peripheral aspects of the law or refuse such cases outright. So it’s no surprise that the Supreme Court has punted in the case of LabCorp Vs. Metabolite on the question of whether medical facts can be patented. In the case, LabCorp had argued that it wasn’t guilty of patent infringement by employing a therapy that relied upon a specific medical phenomenon patented by Metabolite. Unfortunately, instead of resolving this important issue, the court dismissed the case over an undisclosed technicality. In the minority, three judges seemed to grasp the gravity of the case, noting that the failure to resolve it “threatens to leave the medical profession subject to the restrictions imposed by this individual patent and others of its kind”. In the meantime, the best we can hope for is that more restrictions prompt another case to wind its way through the courts.

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Comments on “Supreme Court Leaves Us Hanging On Crucial Patent Case”

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Joe Smith says:

Read the dissent

The dissenting opinion seems to have a very clear understanding of the stakes and talks about the possibility of patents creating obstacles to innovation and the problem of transaction costs.

The majority has apparently not said why they decided to not decide the case. It may be that the record (body of evidence) in the case did not provide an appropriate basis for deciding the underlying patent law issue.

There is something profoundly screwy about the underlying decision at the trial and appeal and that may be part of the reason that SCOTUS decided to abandon the case.

I, for one says:

seems familiar

We’re seeing rather a lot of this. EFF v AT&T and LabCorp v Metabolite are just the latest cases where the courts and judges are buckling on very important high profile decisions.

They are either:

i) Properly on the side of popular justice and waiting for a 100% decisive victory rather than risking a loss on a technicality.

ii) Procrastinating under political pressure. In which case there is no longer any basis for confidence in the courts.


Must of been a tie on who threw the most money their way.

[ /spelling nazi]

Anonymous Coward says:

Chief Justice Roberts has said that he is avoiding most devisive issues this session in order to build a consistent viewpoint across the court and bring some predictability to a previously unpredictable court. He has avoided taking important cases in a number of disciplines with the intent of tackling more important cases next session. Its important for him to build a good foundation within the court prior to moving forward to abortion, patents, tort reform, etc. Hopefully next session, he will tackle patents

DV Henkel-Wallace says:

These method patents are very hard to enforce

In general people won’t take out this sort of patent because it’s hard to enforce (we come up with similar stuff all the time and don’t even want to publish it in since then it’s public knowledge).

Let’s say I learn that drinking a glass of salt water makes my headache tablet be absorbed faster, but it works for asprin and all the other painkillers too (don’t try that — I just made it up). You can’t stop 400,000 doctors from telling their patients to do it. OK, only my company could advertise it, but all the other companies would benefit. So I just don’t bother to investigate it further.

Thomason says:


Congress has shown it is split on reforming the patent statute, and so too, is the Supreme Court split on whether or how to recast the law on patenting methods.

Is everything becoming a 50/50 proposition – the popular vote for president, the party makeup of the Senate, whether a patent will be upheld in court or not, the numbers of people for and against patenting business methods, whether Anna Nicole will get to keep the love money……..

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