Court rules against inventors in patent case

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The Supreme Court on Monday refused to weigh in on whether software, online-shopping techniques and medical diagnostic tests can be patented, saying only that inventors' request for protection of a method of hedging weather-related risk in energy prices cannot be granted.

The high court unanimously agreed with a lower court ruling that threw out Bernard Bilski and Rand Warsaw's patent, a decision many said could endanger patents in an increasingly high-tech world. But the high court said they did not need to make a broad sweeping decision about patents to dispose of Bilski and Warsaw's case.

"The patent application here can be rejected under our precedents on the unpatentability of abstract ideas," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the court. "The court, therefore, need not define further what constitutes a patentable process."

The Supreme Court has already said that abstract ideas, natural phenomena and laws of nature cannot be patented. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit added that a process cannot be patented unless it is "tied to a particular machine or apparatus" or if it "transforms a particular article into a different state or thing."

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