A dietary supplement may be patented despite being based on a naturally occurring substance, a federal appeals court ruled.

Natural Alternatives’ beta-alanine patents cover patent-eligible treatment methods, manufacturing techniques, and drug compositions, the U.S Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled March 15. The panel returned the case to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California for further proceedings.

The ruling sheds light on which claims directed to natural laws can get patent protection. U.S. courts have denied patents for inventions covering a law of nature, a physical phenomenon, or an abstract idea. Life sciences companies...