RESEARCH CORPORATION TECHNOLOGIES v. MICROSOFT (Fed. Cir. 2010)
One of the first cases that may address the Supreme Court's ruling in Bilski v. Kappos involves RCT's claimed method of halftoning color images. The district court held the asserted claims invalid for failing to satisfy Section 101 of the patent act. The following two claims are representative:
1. A method for the halftoning of gray scale images by utilizing a pixel-by-pixel comparison of the image against a blue noise mask in which the blue noise mask is comprised of a random non-deterministic, non-white noise single valued function which is designed to produce visually pleasing dot profiles when thresholded at any level of said gray scale images.
11. A method for the halftoning of color images, comprising the steps of utilizing, in turn, a pixel-by-pixel comparison of each of the plurality of color planes of said color image against a blue noise mask in which the blue noise mask is comprised of a random non-deterministic, non-white noise single valued function which is designed to provide visually pleasing dot profiles when thresholded at any level of said color images, wherein a plurality of blue noise masks are separately utilized to perform said pixel-by-pixel comparison and in which at least one of said blue noise masks is independent and uncorrected with the other blue noise masks.
Microsoft argues that the inventive portion of the claims are directed to the unpatentable mathematical operation of halftoning and the remaining portions use well known technology to preempt use of the mathematical operation.
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IN RE BONNSTETTER (Fed. Cir. 2010)
A second pending Section 101 case involves Bonstetter's claimed "method of benchmarking a job." The specification reports that the invention can be implemented "using pencil and paper" and the claim involves a simple four step process:
Claim 1. A method of benchmarking a job comprising:
identifying subject matter experts (SMEs) for the job;
facilitating discussion with the SMEs to identify and prioritize key accountabilities of the job;
giving a survey to SMEs to determine soft skills necessary for superior performance in the job, the survey incorporating the key accountabilities;
combining responses to the survey from multiple subject matter experts into a composite report identifying and prioritizing skills for superior performance for the job; and
interviewing a job candidate relative to said prioritized skills.
Neither the examiner nor the BPAI suggested that the claim would fail under Section 101. However, in its brief to the Federal Circuit, the USPTO indicated that the claim certainly failed the machine or transformation test (as well as being obvious). The USPTO explained the delayed Section 101 analysis based on internal USPTO delay -- the examiner's rejection was entered in July 2007, before the Federal Circuit's Bilski decision. The USPTO brief only mentions the patentable subject matter issue in a footnote (FN7). However, the issue will likely arise -- especially if the obviousness rejection is reversed.
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Accenture Global Servs. GmbH v. Guidewire Software, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 65193 (D. Del. 2010)
In the Accenture case, district court Judge Sue Robinson has requested briefing on whether Accenture's asserted patents are invalid based on Bilski v. Kappos. The court had previously delayed its ruling on Section 101 pending outcome of that case.
Accenture's claim 1 reads as follows:
Claim 1. A method for generating a file note for an insurance claim, comprising the steps of, executed in a data processing system, of:
prefilling a first set of fields with information identifying a file note, said information comprising at least one suffix indicating a type of insurance coverage for a participant in a claim and identification of the participant, wherein the at least one suffix is preselected from one or more types of insurance coverage applicable to the claim;
obtaining a selection of fields of a first set of fields from a user, the selection identifying information for a second set of fields;
displaying in the second set of fields, the information identified by selection of field of the first set of fields;
permitting the user to add data to a predefined text area related to each field of the second set of fields based on the selected fields;
generating a file note that contains the first set of fields, the second set of fields, and the data in the predefined text area;
identifying a level of significance of the file note; and
storing the file note with the identified level of significance in a claim database including file notes associated with the claim.