by Dennis Crouch
René Descartes may have been the first expressly identify the physical operation of our universe as “laws of nature” (although published in French) – spelling out specifically his three immutable laws of nature (later serving as Newton’s foundation):
- Each thing, as far as is in its power, always remains in the same state; and that consequently, when it is once moved, it always continues to move” (Pr II 37);
- All movement is, of itself, along straight lines (Pr II 39); and
- A body, upon coming in contact with a stronger one, loses none of its motion; but that, upon coming in contact with a weaker one, it loses as much as it transfers to that weaker body” (Pr II 40).
As the study of these natural laws developed, so did the recognition that they are not immutable laws, but rather fail to actually describe the working of our universe. The third law was the first to fail as the “laws” of conservation of energy and momentum were further developed. The other two laws dropped away with the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. Although still used today, we recognize that they are only a rough approximation.
In Mayo, the Supreme Court held the following to be a “law of nature”: If the blood-level of 6-TG exceeds exceed about 400 pmol per 8×108 red blood cells, then the administration of the standard dose of thiopurine is likely to produce toxic side effects, whereas a blood level of about 230 pmol per 8×108 red blood cells indicates that the standard dose should be increased. I am betting that this supposed “law” turns out to be incorrect as well.
The question I’m pondering over the next couple of weeks is how the law of patents should treat these incorrect or unproven laws of nature.