Patent Possibilities Opened by Court Ruling

WASHINGTON ( TheStreet) -- The Supreme Court ruled in a case that may affect whether and how entrepreneurs can put a patent on business methods.

The subject at issue in Bilski v. Kappos was whether the process of doing something has to be tied to a machine -- namely, a machine specifically designed to carry out the process or one that transforms something into another thing. In legalese, this is known as the "machine or transformation test."

The Supreme Court upheld the 2008 findings of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which ruled that a particular method for hedging risks in commodities trading was not a patentable process.

But whereas the lower court used the "machine or transformation test" in its ruling, the Supreme Court made a point of noting that isn't the only means of judging whether a process is patent-worthy. Rather, the high court said it was upholding the ruling because the risk-hedging method was simply too abstract for a patent.

To that end, it's still legally possible to patent a process even if it's not tied to a machine.

-- Reported by Carmen Nobel in Boston.

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