Kalo Company sued Funk Brothers for equitable relief in a federal district court, alleging infringement of product claims to a bacteria inoculant. The district court found infringement of the claims, but held them invalid for want of invention. The circuit court of appeals reversed, holding that the product claims were valid and infringed. On certiorari, the Supreme Court reversed, stating that the newly discovered law of nature, that is, that certain strains of each species of bacteria are mutually compatible, was not patentable, although a practical application of this law might be. The majority opinion also stated that for purposes of determining whether the level of invention was reached, the law of nature and its practical application must be looked at separately rather than as a unit, even though the two are the closely related results of the one person's research. Thus the practical application, apart from the discovery of the law of nature, must itself show inventive genius. The Court admitted that in this case the discovery of the law of nature was ingenious, but held that once the law was known its practical application merely required the exercise of ordinary skill.
Howard W. Haftel S.Ed.,
PATENT LAW-PATENTABILITY AS AFFECTED BY THE LAW OF NATURE RULES-THE KALO DOCTRINE,
Mich. L. Rev.
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mlr/vol47/iss3/7