What the US Supreme Court's KSR v. Teleflex Decision Means for Biotech

Peter Fasse article

Written by J. Peter Fasse
Industrial Biotechnology
Volume 3, No. 2, 2007

Many have written about the United States Supreme Court’s latest decision on patent law, but what does the Court’s decision mean for the biotech industry? On April 30, 2007, the Court issues its unanimous decision in KSR International Co. v. Teleflex Inc., holding that a patent covering a new electronic gas pedal design was invalid because it was “obvious” in view of what had come before. The Court has not spoken on the issue of obviousness in over thirty years, but by its KSR decision has significantly eroded the guidance provided by lower courts over the last twenty-five years on how to determine obviousness – thereby increasing the burden of obtaining and defending patents, especially for inventions in the mechanical and electrical arts. The good news is that the impact of the KSR decision, both on obtaining and defending patents, is appreciably lower for inventions in the areas of biotechnology and chemistry (the so-called “unpredictable” arts) than for inventions in other areas of technology.