The baffling aspect of the opinion is that the Court seems to agree that both the DNA of claim 1 and the DNA of claim 2 are man-made and do not occur in nature. Of claim 1, the Court states that “isolating DNA from the human genome severs chemical bonds and thereby creates a nonnaturally occurring molecule”. Page 14 (emphasis added). Of claim 2, the Court states that “the lab technician unquestionably creates something new when cDNA is made.” Page 17 (emphasis added). According to the way many patent attorneys (and Judge Rader) think, that should be sufficient to comply with §101. But the Court does not see things this way.
Although predictions on the outcome of an unusual case such as this are probably worthless, I think that it is most likely that this panel will rule in 2012 the same way that it ruled in 2011. It is probably safe to presume that the judges are fairly entrenched in their positions. In my view, no arguments were presented which show that Mayo was a game-changer with respect to the isolated DNA claims and the screening method claim. In particular, AMP’s main point about the relevance of Mayo—the preemption argument—was harshly criticized by Judge Moore. Among the three members of the panel, Judge Moore would appear to be the most likely to change sides, and I do not see this happening. Thus, I expect the same outcome as last year. However, the long-term outcome is much murkier, with an en banc hearing and/or a Supreme Court appeal almost certain.
This was a very interesting discussion, although I was surprised at how little Bilski was mentioned. Although the hearing did digress on some tangents, the Justices’ questioning was generally on point and indicative of the difficult questions a case like this presents. Surely, the Court will be thinking of the impact a decision might have on the healthcare industry, as well as the information technology industry. Also, Justices are no doubt aware of other pending cases which may find their way to the Supreme Court, such as AMP v. USPTO, Classen v. Biogen, and the divided infringement cases of McKesson and Akamai. I will leave the reader to reach their own conclusions, but my best guess is that the Court is leaning toward the position that §101 should be a coarse filter and that §102 and §103 would be more appropriate to challenge the validity of the claims in this case. We will learn the answer in the spring.