The U.S. Supreme Court last month made a ruling in a patent case that is as significant to the American economy as any decision made by the Federal Reserve, the president or Congress.

The far-reaching case, Festo Corp. v. Shoketsu Kinzoku Kogyo Kabushiki Co., involves one of the most esoteric areas of the law � intellectual property. Yet with the advent of a knowledge-based economy, information is rapidly becoming many firms’ most valuable resource and the patents protecting a firm’s inventions have become critical strategic assets. Patents grant their holder a limited monopoly to make and profit from their invention for a period of 20 years in exchange for disclosing to the public the new product or process.

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