U.S. Supreme Court building
U.S. Supreme Court building - 
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Bill Radke: Later today, cutting-edge technology companies, like software developers and biotech engineers, will be watching the Supreme Court closely. The justices will are going to hear arguments in a case that asks what kind of innovations can be patented. Marketplace's John Dimsdale has our story.

John Dimsdale: Ten years ago, a Pittsburgh company tried to patent a way of trading commodities contracts. But the U.S. patent office decided it didn't fit the definition since it wasn't a new machine or transformative process. The court of appeals agreed.

But Mike Jakes at the Finnegan law firm says the company had good grounds for appealing to the Supreme Court.

Mike Jakes: The real question is is this an abstract method or not? And we don't believe it is because it's an actual method that can be used to manage consumption risks in a commodity market.

But Stephen Shreiner, a patent attorney with Goodwin Procter, says that innovation was more an idea than an invention.

STEPHEN SHREINER: So the court's view was that applicant was trying to patent this broad concept of hedging using contracts.

Lots of high-tech companies worry a narrow patent definition will jeopardize their rights to idea-based products like software or even pharmaceuticals. They're hoping the Supreme Court rules in their favor next spring.

In Washington I'm John Dimsdale for Marketplace.