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Monday, March 20, 2006 

Justices Reach Out to Consider Patent Case

Published: March 20, 2006

For the first time in a quarter-century, the Supreme Court will hear on Tuesday a case involving the basic question of what type of discoveries and inventions can be patented.

Both sides say the case, which involves a blood test for a vitamin deficiency, could have a wide-ranging impact on the development of diagnostics, perhaps threatening many of the underlying patents for genetic and other medical tests.

But the array of companies filing supporting briefs — including American Express, Bear Stearns and I.B.M. — indicates that intellectual property in other fields might also be affected.

Some patent specialists say they think the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, against the advice of the United States solicitor general, to rein in patenting.

"The Supreme Court reached out and grabbed this case," said Edward R. Reines, a patent attorney at Weil, Gotshal & Manges who is not involved in the case. "These circumstances suggest that some members of the court believe there are too many patents in areas where there should be none."

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How does it make sense that Einstein couldn't patent e=mc2, but these guys can patent the body's biological functions?

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