USPTO Guidance On Patentable Subject Matter: Impediment to Biotech Innovation?
In June 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision upending more than three decades worth of established patent practice when it ruled that isolated gene sequences are no longer patentable subject matter under 35 U.S.C. Section 101.While many practitioners in the field believed that the USPTO would interpret the decision narrowly, the USPTO actually expanded the scope of the decision when it issued its guidelines for determining whether an invention satisfies Section 101. The guidelines were met with intense backlash with many arguing that they unnecessarily expanded the scope of the Supreme Court cases in a way that could unduly restrict the scope of patentable subject matter, weaken the U.S. patent system, and create a disincentive to innovation. By undermining patentable subject matter in this way, the guidelines may end up harming not only the companies that patent medical innovations, but also the patients who need medical care. This article examines the guidelines and their impact on various technologies.