Supreme Court of the United States
Argued March 17, 1980
Decided June 16, 1980
Full case name Sidney A. Diamond, Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks, v. Ananda M. Chakrabarty, et al.
Citations 447 U.S. 303 (more)
100 S. Ct. 2204, 65 L. Ed. 2d 144, 206 U.S.P.Q. 193
Prior history Application of Bergy, 596 F.2d 952 (C.C.P.A. 1979); cert. granted, 444 U.S.924 (1979)
Living, man-made micro-organism is patentable subject matter as a "manufacture" or "composition of matter" within the meaning of the Patent Act of 1952. The fact that the organism sought to be patented is alive is no bar to patentability. Decision of the Court of Customs & Patent Appeals affirmed.
Warren E. Burger
Associate JusticesWilliam J. Brennan, Jr. • Potter Stewart
Byron White • Thurgood Marshall
Harry Blackmun • Lewis F. Powell, Jr.
William Rehnquist • John P. Stevens
Majority Burger, joined by Stewart, Blackmun, Rehnquist, Stevens
Dissent Brennan, joined by White, Marshall, Powell
Patent Act of 1952, specifically 35 U.S.C. § 101
Diamond v. Chakrabarty, 447 U.S. 303 (1980),was a United States Supreme Court case dealing with whether genetically modified organisms can be patented.
5 See also
6 Further reading
7 External links
BackgroundGenetic engineer Ananda Mohan Chakrabarty, working for General Electric, had developed a bacterium (derived from the Pseudomonas genus) capable of breakingdown crude oil, which he proposed to use in treating oil spills. He requested a patent for the bacterium in the United States but was turned down by a patent examiner, because the law dictated that living things were not patentable.
The Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences agreed with the original decision; however, the United States Court of Customs and Patent Appeals overturned the casein Chakrabarty's favor, writing that "the fact that micro-organisms are alive is without legal significance for purposes of the patent law." Sidney A. Diamond, Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks, appealed to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court case was argued on March 17, 1980 and decided on June 16, 1980.
DecisionIn a 5–4 ruling, the court ruled in favor of Chakrabarty, and upheld thepatent, holding that:
A live, human-made micro-organism is patentable subject matter under [Title 35 U.S.C.] 101. Respondent's micro-organism constitutes a "manufacture" or "composition of matter" within that statute.
RulingChief Justice Warren E. Burger wrote the decision, and was joined by Potter Stewart, Harry Blackmun, William Rehnquist, and John Paul Stevens.
Burger wrote that thequestion before the court was a narrow one—the interpretation of 35 U.S.C. 101, which says:
"Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefore, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title."
He wrote that:
We have [in earlier ruling 289 U.S. 178]cautioned that courts "should not read into the patent laws limitations and conditions which the legislature has not expressed."
Regarding the scope of the original legislation, he wrote:
In choosing such expansive terms as "manufacture" and "composition of matter," modified by the comprehensive "any," Congress plainly contemplated that the patent laws would be given wide scope.
Finding thatCongress had intended patentable subject matter to "include anything under the sun that is made by man," he concluded that:
Judged in this light, respondent's micro-organism plainly qualifies as patentable subject matter. His claim is ... to a nonnaturally occurring manufacture or composition of matter—a product of human ingenuity.
DissentThe dissenting opinion was written by William J. Brennan,...