Last week, a unanimous US Supreme Court decided Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, interestingly citing the 150-year-old O’Reilly v. Morse which invalidated Samuel Morse’s attempt to get a patent to cover “electro-magnetism, however developed, for marking or printing intelligible characters, signs, letters, at any distance, being a new application of that power of which I claim to be the first inventor or discoverer.”
In Mayo, the patent was for a method to help doctors determine the right drug dose to give different patients, specifically patients with autoimmune disorders, but the Court said this was an innovation based on natural laws, so it can’t be protected by patent.
Although “an application of a law of nature or mathematical formula to a known structure or process may well be deserving of patent protection,” Diamond v. Diehr, 450 U. S. 175, 187 (1981), “…the steps in the claimed processes (apart from the natural laws them selves) involve well-understood, routine, conventional activity previously engaged in by researchers in the field.” slip op. at 4.
The laws of nature still cannot be patented.