Benny's World

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

ACLU: Patenting Abstract Ideas Violates The Constitution

TomP, an excellent blogger and lawyer, penned this important piece at the Daily Kos and at Docudharma. As a business librarian and one who speaks for more information out in the open, this issue is a concern for for libraries as well as information brokers, bloggers, writers, and for small companies who are still in R & D phases. It's not to say that we should plagiarize, but this is a completely different issue.

With TomP's permission, I am reposting this here because the unitary powers our current Administration believes it has (and so anti-small business). Thank goodness for the ACLU.


The American Civil Liberties Union filed a friend of the court brief today urging a federal court to uphold the denial of a patent that would, if awarded, violate freedom of speech. In the brief, the ACLU argues that Bernard L. Bilski is seeking a patent for an abstract idea, and that abstract ideas are not patentable under the First Amendment.

"The court must ensure that any test it uses in determining whether to award a patent is in line with the Constitution," said Christopher Hansen, senior staff attorney with the ACLU First Amendment Working Group, who filed the brief. "If the government had the authority to grant exclusive rights to an idea, the fundamental purpose of the First Amendment - to protect an individual's right to thought and expression - would be rendered meaningless."


Privatizing damn near everything has long been the goal of the 1%ers and their lackeys in the Republican Party.

More from the ACLU on this:

In 2006, Bilski sought a patent for his idea that the weather risk involved in buying and selling commodities could be minimized if sellers had conversations with two buyers instead of one. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office denied his request and the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences affirmed the denial. Bilski appealed that decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and the court has agreed to hear the case in a single joint session in May.

"Patent law prohibits the patenting of abstract ideas, but recently the courts and the patent office have been granting patents that consist essentially of speech or thought," said Hansen. "If the government continues to allow patents of speech or thought it risks violating the First Amendment.

"No one can have a monopoly on an idea or prohibit speech on a particular subject."


Link to the brief is here.

Because the patent at issue consists soley of speech or thought, the ACLU argues that it cannot be granted without violating the First Amendment.

We have seen how the privatizing regime has distorted patent law to the point that life, itself, is patentable:

You can't patent snow, eagles or gravity, and you shouldn't be able to patent genes, either. Yet by now one-fifth of the genes in your body are privately owned.

The results have been disastrous. Ordinarily, we imagine patents promote innovation, but that's because most patents are granted for human inventions. Genes aren't human inventions, they are features of the natural world. As a result these patents can be used to block innovation, and hurt patient care.

NYTimes: Patenting Life

A dangerous wave of privatisation of all biological diversity is presently taking place under the label of 'intellectual property rights', i.e. patenting of plants, animals and individual parts of DNA.


Patenting allows industry to take control of and exploit organisms and genetic material as exclusive private property that can be sold to or withheld from farmers, breeders, scientists and doctors. "Technology agreements" and fees on seeds deprive farmers of their generations-old right to replant and exchange their seeds. Vast, unsubstantiated patent claims on DNA deter scientists from research in areas that have already been "claimed" by big companies with large legal budgets. Patents on life create Bio-Piracy and a new form of colonialism: In the South, where most global food crops originate from, freely available seeds and specimens are analysed by genetic engineering companies and then patented to be sold back at high prices to those, who originally maintained and developed these varieties over generations.

Greenpeace opposes all patents on genes, plants, humans and parts of the human body and regards the biodiversity of this planet the common heritage of humankind.

Greenpeace: Patenting Life

Progress marches on. Life itself. Abstract ideas. Stop thinking: someone else owns that idea.

I'm glad the ACLU is fighting this.


And so is TomP and we will too.

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  • Thanks for posting this, benny.

    By Blogger TomP, at 5:04 PM  

  • Thank you tomp for the expression of thought and allowing me to post it here.

    By Blogger benny06, at 6:40 PM  

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