Useful art, or useful arts or technics, is concerned with the skills and methods of practical subjects such as manufacture and craftsmanship. The phrase has now gone out of fashion, but it was used during the Victorian era and earlier as an antonym to the performing art and the fine art.
"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;..."
According to the US Supreme Court, the phrase "useful Arts" is meant to reference inventions. There is controversy in the Court as to whether or not this includes business methods. In the majority opinion for In re Bilski,, Justice Anthony Kennedy states "the Patent Act leaves open the possibility that there are at least some processes that can be fairly described as business methods that are within patentable subject matter under §101." In his dissenting opinion, however, Judge Mayer disagreed because he did not consider the claimed business method to be within the useful arts.
- George Washington used the term in a letter to Lafayette (Jan. 29, 1798). Washington distinguished commerce from useful arts by stating, “While our commerce has been considerably curtailed for want of that extensive credit formerly given in Europe, and for default of remittance; the useful arts have been almost imperceptibly pushed to a considerable degree of perfection.” THE WRITINGS OF GEORGE WASHINGTON FROM THE ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT SOURCES, 1732-1799 (Fitzpatrick ed.). Other literary sources are collected in the PTO Supp. Br., In re Bilski, p. 11 n.4 (useful arts are manufacturing processes).
- In re Bilski, 545 F.3d 943, 88 U.S.P.Q.2d 1385 (2008)
- See also Malla Pollack, "The Multiple Unconstitutionality of Business Method Patents: Common Sense, Congressional Choice, and Constitutional History" 61 Rutgers Computer & Tech. L.J. 28 (2002); Micro Law, "What Kinds of Computer-Software-Related Advances (if Any) Are Eligible for Patents? Part II: The Useful Arts Requirement," IEEE MICRO (Sept.-Oct. 2008) (available at http://docs.law.gwu.edu/facweb/claw/KindsElg-II.pdf and http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?arnumber=4659278&isnumber=4659262.pdf).