WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court Monday rejected a bid to expand patent protections for methods of doing business.
The court's ruling in the closely watched case rejected arguments by two inventors who were seeking to patent a method for hedging weather-based risk in commodities trading.
The justices agreed with an appeals court that the method was too abstract to be patented.
The Supreme Court, however, used a different analysis to reach that conclusion, disagreeing with the legal test used by the lower court.
Patents on methods of doing business have grown in record numbers over the last decade. Inventors have sought to patent everything from tax-planning and legal strategies to methods for writing novels and making sandwiches.
Method patents have been a controversial topic in business circles, with some companies supporting broad patent rights and others saying that some business methods aren't real inventions and don't deserve patent protection.
Bank of America Corp., Google Inc. and a group of Internet retailers are among those who argued in friend-of-the court briefs that the explosion of questionable business-method patents has harmed innovation and led to a wave of costly litigation.
The pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, along with high-tech companies like International Business Machines Corp. and Yahoo Inc. had argued that a lower court's legal test limiting business-method patents did not adequately protect technological innovations.
The case is Bilski v. Kappos, 08-964.