Supreme court of the united states

Sidney A. DIAMOND, Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks, Petitioner,
Ananda M. CHAKRABARTY et al.

*305 Mr. Chief Justice BURGER delivered the opinion of the Court.
We granted certiorari to determine whether a live, human-made micro-organism is patentable
subject m.

In 1972, respondent Chakrabarty, a microbiologist, filed a patent application, assigned to the
General Electric Co. The application asserted 36 claims related to Chakrabarty’s invention of “a
bacterium from the genus Pseudomonas containing therein at least two stable energy-generating
plasmids, each of said plasmids providing a separate hydrocarbon degradative pathway.” This
human-made, genetically engineered bacterium is capable of breaking down multiple compo-
nents of crude oil. Because of this property, which is possessed by no naturally occurring bacte-
ria, Chakrabarty’s invention is believed to have significant value for the treatment of oil spills.
Chakrabarty’s patent claims were of three types: first, process claims for the method of produc-
ing the bacteria; *306 second, claims for an inoculum comprised of a carrier material floating on
water, such as straw, and the new bacteria; and third, claims to the bacteria themselves. The pat-
ent examiner allowed the claims falling into the first two categories, but rejected claims for the
1 Plasmids are hereditary units physically separate from the chromosomes of the cell. In prior research, Chakrabarty and an associate discovered that plasmids control the oil degradation abilities of certain bacteria. In particular, the two researchers discovered plasmids capable of degrading camphor and octane, two components of crude oil. In the work represented by the patent application at issue here, Chakrabarty discovered a process by which four different plasmids, capable of degrading four different oil components, could be transferred to and maintained stably in a sin-gle Pseudomonas bacterium, which itself has no capacity for degrading oil. 2 At present, biological control of oil spills requires the use of a mixture of naturally occurring bacteria, each capable of degrading one component of the oil complex. In this way, oil is decomposed into simpler substances which can serve as food for aquatic life. However, for various reasons, only a portion of any such mixed culture survives to attack the oil spill. By breaking down multiple components of oil, Chakrabarty’s micro-organism promises more efficient and rapid oil-spill control. bacteria. His decision rested on two grounds: (1) that micro-organisms are “products of nature,”
and (2) that as living things they are not patentable subject ma.
Chakrabarty appealed the rejection of these claims to the Patent Office Board of Appeals, and the
Board affirmed the Examiner on the second ground. Relying on the legislative history of the
1930 Plant Patent Act, in which Congress extended patent protection to certain asexually repro-
duced plants, the Board concluded that was not intended to cover living things such as
these laboratory created micro-organisms.
The Court of Customs and Patent Appeals, by a divided vote, reversed on the authority of its
prior decision, which held that “the fact that micro-
organisms . . . are alive . . . [is] without legal significance” for purposes of the patent law. Sub-
sequently, we granted the Acting Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks’ petition for certio-
rari in Bergy, vacated the judgment, and remanded the case “for further consideration in light of
s and Patent Appeals then vacated its judg-
ment in Chakrabarty and consolidated the case with Bergy for reconsideration. After re-
examining both cases in the light of our holding in Flook, that court, with one dissent, reaffirmed
its earlier judgments. .
*307 The Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks again sought certiorari, and we granted the
writ as to boSince then, Bergy has been dismissed as mChakrabarty for decision.
The Constitution grants Congress broad power to legislate to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” Art. I, § 8, cl. 8. The patent laws promote this pro-gress by offering inventors exclusive rights for a limited period as an incentive for their inven-tiveness and research efforts. ; . The authority of Congress is exercised in the hope that “[t]he productive effort thereby fostered will have a positive effect on society through the intro-duction of new products and processes of manufacture into the economy, and the emanations by way of increased employment and 3 The Board concluded that the new bacteria were not “products of nature,” because Pseudomonas bacteria contain-ing two or more different energy-generating plasmids are not naturally occurring. 4 Bergy involved a patent application for a pure culture of the micro-organism Streptomyces vellosus found to be useful in the production of lincomycin, an antibiotic. The question before us in this case is a narrow one of statutory interpretation requiring us to con-strue , which provides: “Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufac-ture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title.” Specifically, we must determine whether respondent’s micro-organism constitutes a “manufac-ture” or “composition of matter” within the meaning of the statute.
In cases of statutory construction we begin, oferwise defined, words will be interpreted as taking their ordinary, con-
temporary common meaning.” . We have also cautioned that courts “should not read into the patent laws
limitations and conditions which the legislature has not expressed.”
Guided by these canons of construction, this Court has read the term “manufacture” in in
accordance with its dictionary definition to mean “the production of articles for use from raw or
prepared materials by giving to these materials new forms, qualities, properties, or combinations,
whether by hand-labor or by machinery.” ilarly, “composition of matter” has been
construed consistent with its common usage to include “all compositions of two or more sub-
stances and . . . all composite articles, whether they be the results of chemical union, or of me-
chanical mixture, or whether they be gases, fluids, powders or solids.” iting 1 A. Deller, Walker on Patents § 14, p. 55 (1st
ed. 1937)). 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.
The relevant legislative history also supports a broad construction. The Patent Act of 1793, au-
thored by Thomas Jefferson, defined statutory subject matter as “any new and useful art, ma-
chine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new or useful improvement [thereof].” Act
of Feb. 21, 1793, § 1, 1 Stat. 319. The Act embodied Jefferson’s philosophy that “ingenuity
should receive a liberal encouragement.” *309 5 Writings of Thomas Jefferson 75-76 (Washing-
. Subsequent patent statutes in 1836, 1870, and 1874 employed this same
broad language. In 1952, when the patent laws were recodified, Congress replaced the word “art”
5 This case does not involve the other “conditions and requirements” of the patent laws, such as novelty and nonob-viousness. , . with “process,” but otherwise left Jefferson’s language intact. The Committee Reports accompa-
nying the 1952 Act inform us that Congress intended statutory subject matter to “include any-
thing under the sun that is made by man.” S.Rep.No.1979, 82d Cong., 2d Sess., 5 (1952);
H.R.Rep.No.1923, 82d Cong., 2d Sess., 6 (1952).
no limits or that it embraces every discovery. The laws of
nature, physical phenomena, and abstract id. Thus, a
new mineral discovered in the earth or a new plant found in the wild is not patentable subject
matter. Likewise, Einstein could not patent his celebrated law that E=mc2; nor could Newton
have patented the law of gravity. Such discoveries are “manifestations of . . . nature, free to all
Judged in this light, respondent’s micro-organism plainly qualifies as patentable subject matter.
His claim is not to a hitherto unknown natural phenomenon, but to a nonnaturally occurring
manufacture or composition of matter-a product of human ingenuity “having a distinctive name,
character [and] *310 us. The point is underscored dramatically by comparison of the invention here
with that in Funk. There, the patentee had discovered that there existed in nature certain species
of root-nodule bacteria which did not exert a mutually inhibitive effect on each other. He used
that discovery to produce a mixed culture capable of inoculating the seeds of leguminous plants.
Concluding that the patentee had discovered “only some of the handiwork of nature,” the Court
ruled the product nonpatentable:
“Each of the species of root-nodule bacteria contained in the package infects the same group of leguminous plants which it always infected. No species acquires a different use. The combination of species produces no new bacteria, no change in the six species of bacteria, and no enlargement of the range of their utility. Each species has the same effect it always had. The bacteria perform in their natural way. Their use in combination does not improve in any way their natural func-tioning. They serve the ends nature originally provided and act quite independ-ently of any effort of the patentee.” Here, by contrast, the patentee has produced a new bacterium with markedly different character-istics from any found in nature and one having the potential for significant utility. His discovery is not nature’s handiwork, but his own; accordingly it is patentable subject matter u 6 This same language was employed by P. J. Federico, a principal draftsman of the 1952 recodification, in his testi-mony regarding that legislation: “[U]nder person may have invented a machine or a manufacture, which may include anything under the sun that is made by man. . . .” Hearings on H.R. 3760 before Subcommittee No. 3 of the House Committee on the Judiciary, 82d Cong., 1st Sess., 37 (1951). Two contrary arguments are advanced, neither of which we find persuasive.
The petitioner’s first argument rests on the enactment of the 1930 Plant Patent Act, which af-
forded patent protection to certain asexually reproduced plants, and the 1970 Plant *311 Variety
Protection Act, which authorized protection for certain sexually reproduced plants but excluded
bacteria from its protection. In the petitioner’s view, the passage of these Acts evidences con-
gressional understanding that the terms “manufacture” or “composition of matter” do not include
living things; if they did, the petitioner argues, neither Act would have been necessary.
We reject this argument. Prior to 1930, two factors were thought to remove plants from patent
protection. The first was the belief that plants, even those artificially bred, were products of na-
ture for purposes of the patent law. This position appears to have derived from the decision of the
patent office in Ex parte Latimer, 1889 Dec.Com.Pat. 123, in which a patent claim for fiber
found in the needle of the Pinus australis was rejected. The Commissioner reasoned that a con-
trary result would permit “patents [to] be obtained upon the trees of the forest and the plants of
the earth, which of course would be unreasonable and impossible.” Id., at 126. The Latimer case,
it seems, came to “se[t] forth the general stand taken in these matters” that plants were natural
products not subject to patent protection. Thorne, Relation of Patent Law to Natural Products, 6
J. Pat.Off.Soc. 23, 24 *312 1923). The second obstacle to patent protection for plants was the
fact that plants were thought not amenable to the “written description” requirement of the patent
ay differ from old only in color or perfume, dif-
ferentiation by written description was often impossible. See Hearings on H.R.11372 before the
House Committee on Patents, 71st Cong., 2d Sess. 7 (1930) (memorandum of Patent Commis-
sioner Robertson).
7 The Plant Patent Act of 1930, , provides in relevant part: “Whoever invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant, in-cluding cultivated sports, mutants, hybrids, and newly found seedlings, other than a tuber propo-gated plant or a plant found in an uncultivated state, may obtain a patent therefor . . . .” The Plant Variety Protection Act of 1970, provides in relevant part: “The breeder of any novel variety of sexually reproduced plant (other than fungi, bacteria, or first generation hybrids) who has so reproduced the variety, or his successor in interest, shall be enti-tled to plant variety protection therefor . . . .” 84 Stat. 1547 See generally, 3 A. Deller, Walker on Patents, ch. IX (2d ed. 1964); R. Allyn, The First Plant Patents (1934). 8 Writing three years after the passage of the 1930 Act, R. Cook, Editor of the Journal of Heredity, commented: “It is a little hard for plant men to understand why [Art. I, § 8] of the Constitution should not have been earlier construed to include the promotion of the art of plant breeding. The reason for this is probably to be found in the principle that natural products are not patentable.” Florists Exchange and Horticultural Trade World, July 15, 1933, p. 9.
In enacting the Plant Patent Act, Congress addressed both of these concerns. It explained at
length its belief that the work of the plant breeder “in aid of nature” was patentable invention.
S.Rep.No.315, 71st Cong., 2d Sess., 6-8 (1930); H.R.Rep.No.1129, 71st Cong., 2d Sess., 7-9
(1930). And it relaxed the written description requirement in favor of “a description . . . as com-
plete as is reasonably possible.” ittee or Member of Congress, how-
ever, expressed the broader view, now urged by the petitioner, that the terms “manufacture” or
“composition of matter” exclude living things. The sole support for that position in the legisla-
tive history of the 1930 Act is found in the conclusory statement of Secretary of Agriculture
Hyde, in a letter to the Chairmen of the House and Senate Committees considering the 1930 Act,
that “the patent laws . . . at the present time are understood to cover only inventions or discover-
ies in the field of inanimate nature.” See S.Rep.No.315, supra, at Appendix A;
H.R.Rep.No.1129, supra, at Appendix A. Secretary Hyde’s opinion, however, is not entitled to
controlling weight. His views were solicited on the administration of the new law and not on the
scope of patentablesubject *313 matter-an area beyond his competence. Moreover, there is lan-
guage in the House and Senate Committee Reports suggesting that to the extent Congress con-
sidered the matter it found the Secretary’s dichotomy unpersuasive. The Reports observe:
“There is a clear and logical distinction between the discovery of a new variety of plant and of certain inanimate things, such, for example, as a new and useful nat-ural mineral. The mineral is created wholly by nature unassisted by man. . . . On the other hand, a plant discovery resulting from cultivation is unique, isolated, and is not repeated by nature, nor can it be reproduced by nature unaided by man. . . .” S.Rep.No.315, supra, at 6; H.R.Rep.No.1129,supra, at 7 (emphasis added).
Congress thus recognized that the relevant distinction was not between living and inanimate
things, but between products of nature, whether living or not, and human-made inventions. Here,
respondent’s micro-organism is the result of human ingenuity and research. Hence, the passage
of the Plant Patent Act affords the Government no support.
Nor does the passage of the 1970 Plant Variety Protection Act support the Government’s posi-
tion. As the Government acknowledges, sexually reproduced plants were not included under the
1930 Act because new varieties could not be reproduced true-to-type through seedlings. Brief for
Petitioner 27, n. 31. By 1970, however, it was generally recognized that true-to-type reproduc-
tion was possible and that plant patent protection was therefore appropriate. The 1970 Act ex-
tended that protection. There is nothing in its language or history to suggest that it was enacted

In particular, we find nothing in the exclusion of bacteria from plant variety protection to support
the petitioner’s position. See n. 7, supra. The legislative history gives no reason for this exclu-
sion. As the Court of Customs and *314 Patent Appeals suggested, it may simply reflect con-
gressional agreement with the result reached by that court in deciding In re Arzberger, 27
, which held that bacteria were not plants for the pur-
poses of the 1930 Act. Or it may reflect the fact that prior to 1970 the Patent Office had issued
patents for bacteria under 101. In any event, absent some clear indication that Congress “fo-cused on [the] issues . . . directly related to the one presently before the Court,” , there is no basis for reading into its actions an intent to modify the plain m; .
The petitioner’s second argument is that micro-organisms cannot qualify as patentable subject
matter until Congress expressly authorizes such protection. His position rests on the fact that ge-
. From this it is argued that reso-
lution of the patentability of inventions such as respondent’s should be left to Congress. The leg-
islative process, the petitioner argues, is best equipped to weigh the competing economic, social,
and scientific considerations involved, and to determine whether living organisms produced by
genetic engineering should receive patent protection. In support of this position, the petitioner
relies on our tatement that the judiciary “must proceed cautiously when . . . asked to extend
*315 patent rights into areas wholly unforeseen by Congress.” .
It is, of course, correct that Congress, not the courts, must define the limits of patentability; but it
is equally true that once Congress has spoken it is “the province and duty of the judicial depart-
me. Con-
gress has performed its constitutional role in defining patentable subject ma; we per-
form ours in construing the language Congress has employed. In so doing, our obligation is to
take statutes as we find them, guided, if ambiguity appears, by the legislative history and statu-
tory purpose. Here, we perceive no ambiguity. The subject-matter provisions of the patent law
have been cast in broad terms to fulfill the constitutional and statutory goal of promoting “the
Progress of Science and the useful Arts” with all that means for the social and economic benefits
envisioned by Jefferson. Broad general language is not necessarily ambiguous when congres-
sional objectives require broad terms.
Nothing in Flook is to the contrary. That case applied our prior precedents to determine that a
“claim for an improved method of calculation, even when tied to a specific end use, is unpat-
entable subject matter under The Court
carefully scrutinized the claim at issue to determine whether it was precluded from patent protec-
tion under “the principles underlying the prohibition against patents for ‘ideas’ or phenomena of
nature.” We have done that here. Flook did not announce a new
9 In 1873, the Patent Office granted Louis Pasteur a patent on “yeast, free from organic germs of disease, as an arti-cle of manufacture.” And in 1967 and 1968, immediately prior to the passage of the Plant Variety Protection Act, that Office granted two patents which, as the petitioner concedes, state claims for living micro-organisms. See Reply Brief for Petitioner 3, and n. 2. principle that inventions in areas not contemplated by Congress when the patent laws were en-
acted are unpatentable per se.
To read that concept into Flook would frustrate the purposes of the patent law. This Court fre-
quently has observed that a statute is not to be confined to the “particular application[s] . . . con-
templated by the legislators.” ; *316ially true in the field of patent law. A rule that unanticipated inventions are
without protection would conflict with the core concept of the patent law that anticipation un-
dermMr. Justice Douglas reminded that the inventions most benefiting mankind are those that “push
back the frontiers of chem (concurring opinion). Congress
To buttress his argument, the petitioner, with the support of amicus, points to grave risks that
may be generated by research endeavors such as respondent’s. The briefs present a gruesome
parade of horribles. Scientists, among them Nobel laureates, are quoted suggesting that genetic
research may pose a serious threat to the human race, or, at the very least, that the dangers are far
too substantial to permit such research to proceed apace at this time. We are told that genetic re-
search and related technological developments may spread pollution and disease, that it may re-
sult in a loss of genetic diversity, and that its practice may tend to depreciate the value of human
life. These arguments are forcefully, even passionately, presented; they remind us that, at times,
human ingenuity seems unable to control fully the forces it creates-that with Hamlet, it is some-
times better “to bear those ills we have than fly to others that we know not of.”
It is argued that this Court should weigh these potential hazards in considering whether respon-
dent’s invention is *317 patentable subject matter under e disagree. The grant or denial
of patents on micro-organisms is not likely to put an end to genetic research or to its attendant
risks. The large amount of research that has already occurred when no researcher had sure know-
ledge that patent protection would be available suggests that legislative or judicial fiat as to pat-
entability will not deter the scientific mind from probing into the unknown any more than Canute
could command the tides. Whether respondent’s claims are patentable may determine whether
research efforts are accelerated by the hope of reward or slowed by want of incentives, but that is
10 Even an abbreviated list of patented inventions underscores the point: telegraph (Morse, No. 1,647); telephone (Bell, No. 174,465); electric lamp (Edison, No. 223,898); airplane (the Wrights, No. 821,393); transistor (Bardeen & Brattain, No. 2,524,035); neutronic reactor (Fermi & Szilard, No. 2,708,656); laser (Schawlow & Townes, No. 2,929,922). See generally Revolutionary Ideas, Patents & Progress in America, United States Patent and Trademark Office (1976). What is more important is that we are without competence to entertain these arguments-either to
brush them aside as fantasies generated by fear of the unknown, or to act on them. The choice we
are urged to make is a matter of high policy for resolution within the legislative process after the
kind of investigation, examination, and study that legislative bodies can provide and courts can-
not. That process involves the balancing of competing values and interests, which in our democ-
ratic system is the business of elected representatives. Whatever their validity, the contentions
now pressed on us should be addressed to the political branches of the Government, the Congress
and the Executive, and not to the courts.
*318 We have emphasized in the recent past that “[o]ur individual appraisal of the wisdom or
unwisdom of a particular [legislative] course . . . is to be put aside in the process of interpreting a
statute.” Our task, rather, is the narrow one of
determining what Congress meant by the words it used in the statute; once that is done our pow-
ers are exhausted. Congress is free to am so as to exclude from patent protection organ-
ismspting from patent protec-
tion inventions “useful solely in the utilization of special nuclear material or atomic energy in an
atomic weapon.” Or it may chose to craft a statute specifically designed for such living things.
But, until Congress takes such action, this Court must construe the langu as it is. The
language of that section fairly embraces respondent’s invention.
Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Customs and Patent Appeals is
Mr. Justice BRENNAN, with whom Mr. Justice WHITE, Mr. Justice MARSHALL, and Mr. Jus-
tice POWELL join, dissenting.
I agree with the Court that the question before us is a narrow one. Neither the future of scientific
research, nor even, the ability of respondent Chakrabarty to reap some monopoly profits from his
pioneering work, is at stake. Patents on the processes by which he has produced and employed
the new living organism are not contested. The only question we need decide is whether**2213
Congress, exercising its authority under Art. I, § 8, of the Constitution, intended that he be able
to secure a monopoly on the living organism itself, no matter how produced or how used. Be-
cause I believe the Court has misread the applicable legislation, I dissent.
11 We are not to be understood as suggesting that the political branches have been laggard in the consideration of the problems related to genetic research and technology. They have already taken action. In 1976, for example, the Na-tional Institutes of Health released guidelines for NIH-sponsored genetic research which established conditions un-der which such research could be performed. 41 Fed.Reg. 27902. In 1978 those guidelines were revised and relaxed. 43 Fed.Reg. 60080, 60108, 60134. And Committees of the Congress have held extensive hearings on these matters. See, e. g., Hearings on Genetic Engineering before the Subcommittee on Health of the Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, 94th Cong., 1st Sess. (1975); Hearings before the Subcommittee on Science, Technology, and Space of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, 95th Cong., 1st Sess. (1977); Hearings on H.R. 4759 et al. before the Subcommittee on Health and the Environment of the House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, 95th Cong., 1st Sess. (1977).
*319 The patent laws attempt to reconcile this Nation’s deep seated antipathy to monopolies with
the need to encourage progress. ; plexity and legislative nature
of this delicate task, we must be careful to extend patent protection no further than Congress has
provided. In particular, were there an absence of legislative direction, the courts should leave to
Congress the decisions whether and how far to extend the patent privilege into areas where the
common understanding has been that patents are not available. Cf. Deepsouth Packing Co. v.
Laitram Corp., supra
In this case, however, we do not confront a complete legislative vacuum. The sweeping language
of the Patent Act of 1793, as re-enacted in 1952, is not the last pronouncement Congress has
made in this area. In 1930 Congress enacted the Plant Patent Act affording patent protection to
developers of certain asexually reproduced plants. In 1970 Congress enacted the Plant Variety
Protection Act to extend protection to certain new plant varieties capable of sexual reproduction.
Thus, we are not dealing-as the Court would have it-with the routine problem of “unanticipated
inventions.” Ante, at [316]. In these two Acts Congress has addressed the general problem of pa-
tenting animate inventions and has chosen carefully limited language granting protection to some
kinds of discoveries, but specifically excluding others. These Acts strongly evidence a congres-
sional limitation that excludes bacteria from patentability.
*320 First, the Acts evidence Congress’ understanding, at least since 1930, that does not
include living organisms. If newly developed living organisms not naturally occurring had been
patentable under the scope of the 1930 and 1970 Acts could have
been patented without new legislation. Those plants, like the bacteria involved in this case, were
new varieties not naturally occurring. Although the Court, ante, at [311], rejects this line of ar-
gument, it does not explain why the Acts were necessary unless to correct a pre-existing situa-
1 I read the Court to admit that the popular conception, even among advocates of agricultural patents, was that living organisms were unpatentable. See ante, at 2209, and n. 8. 2 But even if I agreed with the Court that the 1930 and 1970 Acts were not dispositive, I would dissent. This case presents even more cogent reasons than Deepsouth Packing Co. not to extend the patent monopoly in the face of uncertainty. At the very least, these Acts are signs of legislative attention to the problems of patenting living organ-isms, but they give no affirmative indication of congressional intent that bacteria be patentable. The caveat of admonition to “proceed cautiously when we are asked to extend patent rights into areas wholly unforeseen by Congress,” therefore becomes pertinent. I should think the necessity for caution is that much greater when we are asked to extend patent rights into areas Con-gress has foreseen and considered but has not resolved. 3 The Court refers to the logic employed by Congress in choosing not to perpetuate the “dichotomy” suggested by Secretary Hyde. Ante, at [311]. But by this logic the bacteria at issue here are distinguishable from a “mineral . . . created wholly by nature” in exactly the same way as were the new varieties of plants. If a new Act was needed to provide patent protection for the plants, it was equally necessary for bacteria. Yet Congress provided for patents on plants but not on these bacteria. In short, Congress decided to make only a subset of animate “human-made inven-tions,” ibid., patentable. tion. I cannot share the Court’s implicit assumption that Congress was engaged in either idle
exercises or mere correction of the public record when it enacted the 1930 and 1970 Acts. And
Congress certainly thought it was doing something significant. The Committee Reports contain
expansive prose about the previously unavailable benefits to be derived from extending patent
protection to plants. *321min.News 1970, p. 5082; S.Rep.No.315, 71st Cong., 2d Sess., 1-3 (1930). Because Congress
thought it had to legislate in order to make agricultural “human-made inventions” patentable and
because the legislation Congress enacted is limited, it follows that Congress never meant to make
items outside the scope of the legislation patentable.
Second, the 1970 Act clearly indicates that Congress has included bacteria within the focus of its
legislative concern, but not within the scope of patent protection. Congress specifically excluded
. The Court’s attempts to supply
explanations for this explicit exclusion ring hollow. It is true that there is no mention in the legis-
lative history of the exclusion, but that does not give us license to invent reasons. The fact is that
Congress, assuming that animate objects as to which it had not specifically legislated could not
be patented, excluded bacteria from the set of patentable organisms.
The Court protests that its holding today is dictatednot “be confined to the ‘particular application [s] . . . contemplated by the legislators.’” Ante, at
[315], quoting But as I have shown, the Court’s decision does not follow the unavoidable implications of the
statute. Rather, it extends the patent system to cover living material *322 even though Congress
plainls. It is the role
of Congress, not this Court, to broaden or narrow the reach of the patent laws. This is especially
true where, as here, the composition sought to be patented uniquely implicates matters of public
4 If the 1930 Act’s only purpose were to solve the technical problem of description referred to by the Court, ante, at [311], most of the Act, and in particular its limitation to asexually reproduced plants, would have been totally un-necessary. 5 Secretary Hyde’s letter was not the only explicit indication in the legislative history of these Acts that Congress was acting on the assumption that legislation was necessary to make living organisms patentable. The Senate Judici-ary Committee Report on the 1970 Act states the Committee’s understanding that patent protection extended no fur-ther than the explicit provisions of these Acts: Under the patent law, patent protection is limited to those varieties of plants which reproduce asexually, that is, by such methods as grafting or budding. No protection is available to those va-rieties of plants which reproduce sexually, that is, generally by seeds.” S.Rep.No.91-1246, p. 3 (1970). Similarly, Representative Poage, speaking for the 1970 Act, after noting the protection accorded asexually developed plants, stated that “for plants produced from seed, there has been no such pro-tection.” 116 Cong.Rec. 40295 (1970).


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