Interesting quote from Octane Fitness v. Icon Health & Fitness, 134 S. Ct. 1749, 1758 (2014):
We reject Brooks Furniture for another reason: It is so demanding that it would appear to render § 285 largely superfluous. We have long recognized a common-law exception to the general “American rule” against fee-shifting — an exception, “inherent” in the “power [of] the courts” that applies for “`willful disobedience of a court order’” or “when the losing party has `acted in bad faith, vexatiously, wantonly, or for oppressive reasons….’” Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. v. Wilderness Society,421 U.S. 240, 258-259, 95 S.Ct. 1612, 44 L.Ed.2d 141 (1975). We have twice declined to construe fee-shifting provisions narrowly on the basis that doing so would render them superfluous, given the background exception to the American rule, seeChristiansburg Garment Co. v. EEOC, 434 U.S. 412, 419, 98 S.Ct. 694, 54 L.Ed.2d 648 (1978); Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises, Inc., 390 U.S. 400, 402, n. 4, 88 S.Ct. 964, 19 L.Ed.2d 1263 (1968) (per curiam), and we again decline to do so here.
Something to keep in mind the next time you are considering whether Alice v. CLS Bank renders 35 U.S.C. §103 largely superfluous for certain types of inventions.
Perhaps Mackey v. Lanier Collection Agency & Service, Inc., 486 U.S. 825, 108 S. Ct. 2182, 100 L. Ed. 2d 836 (1988) is more on point:
As our cases have noted in the past, we are hesitant to adopt an interpretation of a congressional enactment which renders superfluous another portion of that same law.
Id. (citing Massachusetts Mutual Life Ins. Co. v. Russell, 473 U. S. 134, 142 (1985); FEC v.National Conservative Political Action Committee, 470 U. S. 480, 486 (1985); Park ‘N Fly, Inc. v. Dollar Park and Fly, Inc., 469 U. S. 189, 197 (1985); United States v. Generix Drug Corp., 460 U. S. 453, 458-459 (1983); Dickerson v. New Banner Institute, 460 U. S. 103, 118 (1983)).
UPDATED January 24, 2015:
Perhaps better still is this statement from Bilski v. Kappos, 130 S.Ct. 3218, 3228-29 (2010):
A conclusion that business methods are not patentable in any circumstances would render § 273 meaningless. This would violate the canon against interpreting any statutory provision in a manner that would render another provision superfluous. See Corley v. United States, 556 U.S. ___, ___, 129 S.Ct. 1558, 1566, 173 L.Ed.2d 443 (2009). This principle, of course, applies to interpreting any two provisions in the U.S.Code, even when Congress enacted the provisions at different times. See, e.g., Hague v. Committee for Industrial Organization, 307 U.S. 496, 529-530, 59 S.Ct. 954, 83 L.Ed. 1423 (1939) (opinion of Stone, J.). This established rule of statutory interpretation cannot be overcome by judicial speculation as to the subjective intent of various legislators in enacting the subsequent provision. Finally, while § 273 appears to leave open the possibility of some business method patents, it does not suggest broad patentability of such claimed inventions.