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Supreme Court hears patent case, rehears whistleblower case

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] Wednesday heard oral arguments on whether a patent on a two-step technique used to measure Vitamin B deficiencies allows its owners to monopolize an unpatentable scientific principle or natural phenomenon. Bush administration lawyers urged the Court not to consider the broader questions raised by Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings v. Metabolite Laboratories Inc., et al. [Duke Law case backgrounder]. Metabolite Laboratories, the holder of the patent, argued that the patent merely protects a practical application of the scientific discovery, an argument frowned upon by Associate Justices Antonin Scalia and Stephen Breyer during Tuesday's oral arguments. While Breyer was concerned over the potential for companies to establish monopolies over "every useful idea," Scalia attacked the patent itself, saying it seemed to cover a scientific discovery. The ABA has merit briefs filed in the case. USA Today has more.

Also Tuesday, the Court reheard oral arguments in Garcetti v. Ceballos [Duke Law backgrounder], in which it will consider whether government employees are protected by free speech rights during the course of their employment. In that case, a Los Angeles county prosecutor claimed he was demoted for testifying that a deputy sheriff lied in a search warrant affidavit. Oral arguments were rescheduled [JURIST report] after the first arguments ended in a 4-4 deadlock in conference, as Samuel Alito had yet to be confirmed. The ABA has merit briefs filed in the proceeding. AP has more.

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