Protecting the bargain inherent in the patent system is central to the determination of patentable subject matter. If an applicant invents something novel, non-obvious, and useful and provides a written description that enables others to practice the invention, then the applicant is rewarded with the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, or offering to sell for a limited time the invention. The Patent Act provides an incentive to invest in innovation leading to new inventions and "reflects a balance between the need to encourage innovation and the avoidance of monopolies which stifle competition without any concomitant advance in the Progress of Science and useful Arts.
The courts have defined several exceptions to patentable subject matter, including "laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas." Natural phenomena are not patentable because such protection "would withdraw access to information already in the public domain.", No incentive to innovate is necessary when the innovation exists already: such incentive is needed only for those "inventions which would not be disclosed or devised but for the inducement of a patent." Such inventions are those "made by man," not merely those discovered in nature.
Winston, Elizabeth I.
"The Technological Edge,"
Akron Intellectual Property Journal: Vol. 6
, Article 5.
Available at: https://ideaexchange.uakron.edu/akronintellectualproperty/vol6/iss2/5